Khmer ethnic people in An Giang province’s Tinh Bien district are very proud of their sweet speciality, Thot not sugar, which is made from the sap of palmyra palms.

This kind of palm sugar is distinguished by its dark yellow colour, sweat taste and special flavour, which is quite different from other sorts of sugar.

In Tinh Bien district, almost all houses owned by the Khmer people are surrounded by palmyra palms, sometimes fields full.

Thot not trees have the appearance of both coconut palms and sugar date palms. Every year, the trees produce fruit from October to the following April, according to the lunar calendar.

Thot not sugar has become popular for its sweet smell. It can be used for preparing sweetened porridge or other similar dishes.

According to a research by Indian scientists, palmyra palm sugar can be used for preventing diabetes because of its light sweet taste. It is also good for preventing strokes and heart problems, especially for children and women.

Thot not sugar is produced by tapping the sap from the inflorescence of a palmyra palm. It takes a palmyra palm 15 years to flower and produce enough sap for cooking sugar.

In order to collect the sap, workers must climb to the top of the palm tree, cut its flowers and then catch the liquid oozing from the cuts. Once the sap is collected, it must be cooked within 12 hours. Otherwise it can become sour.

In April every year, in all corners of the area inhabited by the Khmer people, sugar workshops operate.

Palm sap is poured into a pan and is cooked until it becomes condensed and fragrant.
At first, the cooking stage is thought to be simple, but it is not so. If the cook is not careful, the batch of sugar will be burned. Therefore, it is necessary for the cook to watch the fire and stir constantly for many hours to get a delicious batch of sugar.

Neang Quach, a producer of Thot not sugar in Nhon Hung Commune, Tinh Bien district said for each batch of sugar, she pours around 30 litres of sap and then she will add some more when it evaporates.

According to her, about 90 litres of sap can produce around 16 kilos of sugar. When the sap is condensed, she will take the pan out and stir firmly. Moreover, it is necessary to control the fire carefully.

When the cooking stage is finished, palm sugar is poured into small round moulds and then packed in plastic bags. There is also a traditional way of packaging where the sugar is covered by dry palm leaves.

Today, Thot not sugar is distributed in many localities in the country and also exported to Japan.

A palm tree can only give about 20 kilos of sugar each crop. In order to cook a batch of sugar, it is necessary to extract from so many trees. During the peak season, even at night, many people still work hard to get the last drops of the sap from the trees.

An Giang province now accommodates 30,000 palmyra palms that can produce more than 6,000 tonnes of sugar a year. This is the main income source of the Khmer people.-VNA