Palm sugar: How sweet it is

By Beth Pollak

After driving out to Banteay Srei temple and halfway back, I finally asked our guide, Santhou, what the palm-wrapped items were that I saw for sale outside of almost every house on the path.

“Palm sugar,” he replied.

I asked him if we could pull over our tuk-tuk so I could try some.

On the table, there was a jar of caramel-colored circles –about an inch in diameter and half an inch thick – for us to sample. This, Santhou told us, was the palm sugar.

Upon popping one into my mouth, I encountered a familiar taste for all Southerners – the taste of pralines. The sugar had exactly the same taste, texture and consistency as the sweet American treat – minus the pecans, of course.

I was hooked. I bought six frond-encased packages, each holding 10 of the candy-like pieces, for $2. But I needed to know more, so I kept asking Santhou questions about how the palm sugar is made.

Men climb bamboo ladders to the top of palm trees to attach wooden clamps to the fruit of the tree. The clamps squeeze the sap out of the fruit and into a hollow bamboo tube for collection. After sap has been collected, it is boiled in a large pot – usually made of black metal, with a silver inside – for about two to three hours. It is allowed to cool into the little pieces for about an hour, and then it is ready to serve – or more likely, sell.

Hopping off of the guided tour in Cambodia has never tasted so sweet.


1 comment so far

  1. Eric Pollak on

    Sounds tasty.

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