Participants of the International Summer School programme posing for photos with Mohd Chee Kadir and Kabong community members
KABONG, 2 August 2019 - Kabong’s palm sugar continues to receive attention from local and international varsities as evidenced by a group of students and lecturers from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou China who visited the palm sugar processing site here yesterday as part of the International Summer School programme organised by Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Sarawak Campus (UPMKB).
The International Summer School programme is organised by the Institute of Ecosystem Science Borneo and the Faculty of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Universiti Putra Malaysia Bintulu Sarawak Campus (UPMKB). The programme, themed “An Interactive Multicultural Journey Through Biodiversity’’ was joined by 24 students and lecturers from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou China.
The International Summer School is a two-week programme organised by UPMKB and specially designed to incorporate various activities revolving around the concepts of Borneo’s cultural wealth, diversity of Bornean flora and fauna, agricultural sector development, and the internationalisation of industries in Sarawak.
One of such activities is the visit to the palm sugar processing site in Kabong, which gives opportunities to participants to experience the processing techniques of palm sugar as well as to learn the preparation of traditional food items containing palm sugar. At the same time, participants also get to interact with the villagers and experience the culture of the local community.
The visit began with the trip to the palm sugar manufacturing company owned by Mr Shamsudin Bin Jin located at Sungai Benang Village, Kabong yesterday. They started the tour to the processing area at nine in the morning. Mr Shamsudin, the owner, gave detailed explanation about the processing techniques and the stages involved from harvesting of sap of the nipah palm tree (Nypa fruticans) to its eventual processing into palm sugar using traditional methods.
N.40 State Assemblyman, Mr Mohd Chee Kadir and his wife were also present at the International Summer School programme organised by UPMKB. He hoped programmes such as this can foster cooperative networks and linkages between communities and universities in areas of academic, research, student and societal development, cultural and expertise exchange in various fields. At the same time, the programme is hoped to benefit the participants, university, and communities in Kabong.
Palm Sugar in Sarawak
Palm sugar is produced from the sap of the nipah palm tree. The nipah palm tree grows abundantly along the coastal areas defined by mangrove forests, and such topography is also known as buyuk in Indonesia. The natural sweetener is popularly used by the locals in the preparation of various kinds of traditional kuih consumed by Sarawak communities; it is also used as a natural flavouring to enhance the aroma of dishes and foodstuffs. Folklore has it that palm sugar may alleviate type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
If Malacca is famous for its gula Melaka and Pahang with gula kabung (enau), Sarawak is famous for gula apong. Indeed, the three sugars may be similar in physical appearance, but in actuality, they are differentiated by the base ingredients used to produce them. Even the taste and aroma between them can be discerned.
In terms of base ingredient, gula Melaka is made from the sap of coconut tree, gula Kabung from the sap of Kabung tree while gula apong is produced from the sap of nipah palm tree also known as apong tree by the locals in Sarawak.
The process of making gula apong begins with the harvesting of sap from nipah palm tree. Then, the collected sap is cooked for hours until it becomes thick in texture. While cooking, the thick substance needs to be stirred continuously so it doesn’t burn and stopping only when a viscous consistency is achieved. Traditional implements such as wooden container and clay stove are still in use in keeping with traditions.
The end product gula apong is sold in the form of viscous liquid compared to gula Melaka and gula Kabung which are sold in chunks or powdered form. Packaged in food grade plastic bags and/or containers, it can be found at the farmer’s market (pasar tamu) throughout Sarawak. The product has a high demand due to its versatility in food and beverage preparations.
Gula apong also sees uses in the making of bite-sized desserts such as kuih penyaram (or kuih pinjaram as it is called in Sabah), beras pulut and kuih selorot which are favourites among Sarawakians and Sabahans. Besides that, the sweetener is also used extensively in rojak (a mix of blanched fruit, vegetable and cuttlefish on a plate topped with a characteristic sweat sauce), BBQ sauces, Teh C Special (a local three-layered tea drink consisting of brewed tea, evaporated milk, and gula apong), and ice-creams—the gula apong ice-cream is the perfect cooling dessert to help you acclimatise to the hot and humid tropical weather.
Date of Input: 02/08/2019 | Updated: 06/08/2019 | lanz
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