Aside from the distinct type of banana (“Seeni Kesel”) and citrus fruit (“Ambul Dodang”) I recently featured, another interesting find here in Sri Lanka are their “Kithul Treacle and Jaggery”.
“Kithul” is a Sri Lankan name to a variety of palm scientifically known as Caryota urens that grows in the Asian tropics. It is a species of indigenous flowering plant in the palm family from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India. They naturally grow in the wild, in forest covers, in fields, in rain-forest clearings and even in home gardens. This palm has been used as an ornamental tree in the Philippines. In fact, our family has one tree growing right in front of our garden which my sister Ines got from a local garden supplier. They are commonly called solitary fishtail palm, toddy palm, wine palm or jaggery palm.
“Kithul” treacle and jaggery are products made from the sugary sweet sap obtained by tapping the young “Kithul” inflorescence according to a traditional methods. This traditional knowledge was a highly guarded and much valued secret, kept within families and handed down from generation to generation with the techniques being unmatched and not practiced in any other country in the region.
“Kithul” treacle, also called “Kithul honey” is similar to maple syrup and made from pure sap for a unique taste and aroma. Since it is an all-natural, chemical-free products with no additives or preservatives, it is a healthy alternative to granular sugar. In Sri Lanka, treacle is a “must-have” accompaniment to curd and a common ingredient in baking. For me, I have used this in “minatamis na saging” or sweetened banana, pancakes syrup and other sweets.
“Kithul” jaggery is produced by concentrated treacle heated to 200°C until it reaches a consistency similar to that of a thick syrup. It is then poured into moulds and cooled. It is a traditional unrefined non-centrifugal sugar ready to use as a natural sweetener with tea, herbal tea, sweet and savoury dishes, or simply enjoyed on its own. It is also used as an ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes across Sri Lanka. For me, I have used this in cooking "humba", "estopado" and other dishes requiring brown sugar.
In the Philippines, there is also a jaggery locally known as “panocha” or “panutsa”. This block of sweetness is made from concentrated sugarcane juice without the separation of the molasses and crystals. “Kithul” jaggery however is more similar to Philippine’s “pakaskas” which is also a palm sugar. It is produced from Buri palm tree which can be found in the Philippines.
The unique taste is also the same as well as the health benefit. I used to eat it as sweets when I was a kid. It is pack with natural goodness amidst its rather small packaging. Owing to the success of using "Kithul" jaggery in cooking Philippine dishes, I think I have to try "pakaskas" in "estopado" and "humba" on my next vacation. c“,)