Monday, 14 March 2011

Palm Sugar

So, as mentioned, I've been working at the top Bangkok restaurant Bo.Lan the last few days.

But! On Monday's the place is closed and the owners Bo and Dylan (hence the name of the place) kindly invited me to come with them to visit their palm sugar supplier in the countryside outside Bangkok.

It was fascinating. The suppliers Bo & Dylan have tracked down make top quality stuff - totally unadulterated (unlike much of the stuff produced nowadays, which often has other sugars or chemicals added), soft, buttery and delicious.

The family who produce it live on the plantation and make the stuff by hand, the same way it's been done for generations...cue pic of wise old palm sugar dude:

I'm no expert on the process, but from what I could gather, and what Dylan told me, I believe it goes like this....

The trees (coconut palms) are tapped for sap by chopping the where the coconuts would grow, and twice a day the farmers shimmy up the trees and collect the containers.

Check out the rustic ladders they use:

Then the palm nectar is boiled down....

Until thick....

Then passed through muslin....

And now it's stirred & worked with this special palm sugar wand thing

Here's the old dude again, giving us a masterclass:

When it firms up, and the right consistency is achieved,
it's ready. The warm sugar is then either poured into 40kg containers or set in molds into 1kg blocks.

This finished product, ready for market....or, in our case, for Bo & Dylan, who left with a good 100kg of the stuff in the back of their car.

The whole thing was a privilege to watch. The family were also ridiculously nice people - feeding us fruit and chopping down various things they grow on the farm & trying to persuade us to take them.

So nice to see how Bo & Dylan's passion for great produce, and willingness to pay a bit extra for it, helps to allow their suppliers to keep doing things in the time honored fashion instead of caving in to the pressure to produce something cheaper and quicker, but not as good.

Next post from Ho Chi Minh City!


pieternel said...

great pics!! Keep them coming along with interesting stories!!

Michael Knight said...

Mate, your trip sounds awesome.

Robyn said...

Andy, do you remember about how long the coconut flower sap was boiled for? I've long been wondering why Malaysian coconut palm sugar, which is made in exactly the same way as Thai coconut palm sugar, is dark brown when Thai sugar is that caramel-y yellow. Down here they cook it for about 3 hours. Up there?

Andy said...

robyn. cant say exactly as they seemed to have three big woks of the stuff boiling down at different stages at any one time.

but judging by the number of batches they did when we were there it cant have taken more than an hour. the sugar at the end (when cooled) is still soft enough to break lumps of and crush with your hands. imagine dark stuff is much firmer no?