Tuesday, 05/03/2024 07:36

An Giang’s palm sugar, a specialty of An Giang Province

Hoàng Lan

Apart from the attractive spiritual tourism sites of Miếu Bà Chúa Núi Sam and Mubarak Islamic Mosque, the southern coastal province of An Giang is famous for its palm sugar, a specialty that is considered an ideal ingredient to cook tasty dishes such as palm sugar juice, jam, porridge, cow cake and others.

Local Nguyễn Ngọc Lan, in An Giang’s Bảy Núi District, a birth place of palm sugar, said cooking is her passion and the palm sugar is one of the key ingredients in her kitchen.

An Giang's palm sugar is famous nationwide for its organic, lightly sweet fragrance. Photo mia.vn

“With its light sweetness and fragrance, the palm sugar is very suitable for cooking porridge, jelly and juice to deal with summer heat. It is particularly used to make chewy sponge cake (locally known as bánh bò thốt nốt), also a specialty of An Giang,” Lan said, adding that she also used the palm sugar to make caramel or a spicy sauce to braise pork or fish.

“Palm sugar juice with ice is widely sold throughout the province. It is a lovely drink for locals and visitors here,” she said.

Asked about what is palm sugar and how to make it, Lan said locals get its flowers and fruits to cook it at home. 

The palm sugar fruit's inner flesh is used in making palm sugar. Photo baoangiang.vn

The tree has been planted widely in An Giang’s Bảy Núi, Tri Tôn and Tịnh Biên districts, and across Southeast Asian in Thailand and Cambodia.

Lan said the palm tree plays an important role in the districts’ Khmer community life. Locals consider the tree as coming from heaven to help them process it into palm sugar that brings them a stable monthly income and lovely spice for cooks and housewives nationwide.

“Using palm sugar in cooking helps improve nutrition and health compared with refined sugar. Locals use palm sugar to make bánh bò thốt nốt, a must-try sponge cake in An Giang," Lan said.

Palm sugar is used to make chewy sponge cake (locally known as bánh bò thốt nốt), a specialty of An Giang. Photo mia.vn

The cake is a popular dish across western provinces including An Giang’s three districts. This special dessert is cooked with palmyra palm sugar and is a point of pride among local here, she told Việt Nam News.

She said its special name in Vietnamese "bánh bò" meaning "cow cake" – is derived from its shape, which resembles a cow's udder. However, according to a popular folk explanation, also refers to how the cake "crawls" up to the rim of the bowl when fully steamed.

Asked how to make the palm sugar, Lan said its season runs from November to May when the flowers are in full bloom and give the most nectar so locals climb the tree and use a tube or a plastic container to get the nectar from its flowers, then they take it home and cook it for 3-6 hours, stirring regularly, until it is condensed.

Beautiful palm sugar trees in An Giang Province's Bảy Núi District. Photo mia.vn

“This technique requires experienced cooks. They will let the condensed palm sugar completely evaporate and then cut it into pieces to be sold,” she said.

Herbalist Trần Trung from the An Giang Centre for Traditional Medicine said the palm sugar is a completely natural sugar so it is safe for human health. 

“The palm sugar is rich with ion and magnesium to deal with anaemia and helps to improve nerve system,” he said, adding that it is particularly very good for women wishing to keep their slender form.

An Giang’s palm sugar is now widely used by housewives and foodies nationwide. It is also sold in both traditional markets and supermarkets,” Trung said. VNS

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