Palm sugar (sometimes called jaggery)
Now I’ve found this gorgeous stuff in quite a few places. My first experience of it was in Malaysia, many moons ago, when I was introduced to it as Gula Malacca. (sugar from the town of Mallacca.) It’s sugar that is extracted from palms and is rich, and kinda caramelly with the crystal texture of (badly made) homemade fudge. I love it and you don’t need too much of it as it is pretty intense.
Palm sugar comes in different guises. Sometimes as a solid lump, which you need to grate finely, or as a putty like paste in little tubs which you can spoon out, or as some supermarkets are now selling as little brown crystals to sprinkle in. The flavours vary too from sweet and caramely to sweet, dark and treacly. Substitute light brown or light brown muscovado sugar and if you don’t have any of that, then use good old white sugar.
This one below I bought in SriLanka, beautifully wrapped in it’s own palm leaves. (dry now.) I haven’t wanted to open it up til now as it looked so amazing. But I did and it was still gorgeous stuff 2 years later!
Palm sugar is often used to sweeten and balance out a salty, acidic or fishy flavoured dish
giving it a gorgeous edge . You’ll notice I love these sort of sweet and sour flavours. Intense but sweet. An addictive sensation.
Thai cooking balances flavours with palm sugar quite a bit, with recipes like Som Tam, (green papaya salad) that has dried shrimp, fish sauce, lime and palm sugar as a dressing. It’s often used in puddings too and we had the intense palm sugar from Sri Lanka above, finely grated onto P’s warm rice pudding. Oh my. Try it on porridge.