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Discovering Cambodian Palm Sugar

Cambodian Palm Tree
Cambodian Palm Tree

So, Cambodian palm sugar, particularly palm sugar in Kratie, well it’s a thing. I thought I had already covered EVERYTHING about Kratie. The pagoda, the 100 column thing, the island with no name, street food, best pizza and of course Koh Trong. Oh and of course then there’s dolphin watching , literally the main reason to come here,

To read my massive 2k word guide to the tiny island of Koh Trong click here .

For the best pizza in Kratie click here . I’d largely thought that I had for want of a better word written the arse out of the place, but then I was going through photos, as you do where I remembered a great pit-stop.

Table of Contents

Driving around the countryside of Kratie

There’s only a few attractions in Kratie, all of which necessitate transport, in this instance a Tuk-Tuk for the day. Getting a tuk-tuk has a lot or benefits, firstly there’s not having to walk and secondly there’s the amazing countryside of Kratie. Kratie is a small town, so you really do not have to go far to see some proper rural Khmer life.

It was driving past a house in the countryside where the driver asked if I fancied checking out a guy making palm sugar> Why of course I did!

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Cambodian Palm sugar is a thing

So, I have heard of palm wine, via very great movie Blood Diamonds. After a little bit of research I was to find that palm sugar can be made from many trees, one of them being the tree of a coconut. Again movie time, I think I remember them making moonshine from the sap of a coconut tree.

To read bout the best moonshine in Phnom Penh click here .

How do they make palm sugar in Cambodia?

Cambodians harvest the sap from a palm tree, which kind of makes sense when you think they are making palm sugar. Apparently the palm tree also a produces a fruit that is used in some Khmer desserts.

What is a Cambodian palm tree?

The Palm tree, commonly known as Borassus flabellifer in scientific parlance is known to the Khmer as “Tnaot”. It is native to the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia.

So, the Khmer palm tree. It is apparently the national tree of Cambodia. There are songs written about it and they do a lot with said tree!

For some real fun you can either read the song in Khmer. or google translate it…

ត្នោត :ត្នោតអើយត្នោតស្រែ ត្នោតខ្មែរដីយើងត្នោតផលថ្កុំថ្កើង យោងជីវភាពផៅត្នោតដើមតូចធំ ផលច្រើនសល់នៅគ្រប់ៗរដូវ ផលរាល់វេលា។ដើមយកធ្វើទូក ស្លឹកខ្ចីខ្ចប់នំស្លឹកចាស់ដេរផ្គុំ ប្រក់ខ្ទមរមនាធាងធ្វើខ្សែគោ ត្បាញស្មុគហិបជាផ្កាកៀបគ្រប់គ្រា យកទឹកធ្វើស្ករ។ផ្លែខ្ចីឆីឆ្ងាញ់ ជួនធ្វើបង្អែមផ្លែទុំជាតិផ្អែម ធ្វើនំអាកោរម្លប់ត្នោតត្រជាក់ រាស្រ្តជ្រកហែហូរច្រៀងហួចបន្ទរ សប្បាយអឺងកង។នេះហើយត្នោតខ្មែរ ថែប្រយោជន៍ភូមិញាតិរសមូលមុំ ជុំញាតិប្អូនបងត្បិតព្រោះដើមត្នោតនាំភាពរុងរឿងសប្បាយថ្កុំថ្កើងដល់ជាតិខេមរា។(Credit:អ្នកស្រី កែវ ច័ន្ទបូរណ៍)

Khmer Palm Tree Song

Unripe palm tree fruit – It can be eaten, but part of it is sweet, but it is the sour bit that is used for Bobor Tnaot (Khmer Desserts) and Sam Lor Korko Tnaot,Somlor Mjoo Tnaot (Palm fruit Soup).  It is also used in Khmer sour soup with coconut milk.

You can read about Khmer sour soup here,

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Ripe fruit – When ripe can be used as a dessert or cake such as Num Akor Tnaot (look like steam Bun with colour yellow-orange the original colour of Ripe Tnaot Fruit) .

Cambodian Palm Sugar Desserts
Cambodian Palm Sugar Desserts

Palm liquor! – OK, so I am yet to find this, BUT apparently the sour juice can be harvested and turned into a kind of moonshine popular at parties! I am very interested in trying this.

Palm leaves – Palm leaves are used for everything from clothes to mats and even writing materials! Also used to wrap various Khmer dishes in. Much more environmentally friendly than plastic.

Pam trunk – It’s a wood so strong that you can even make boats from it! Apparently according to Al Gore’s intwerweb this is the preferred tree for Khmer boats.

Boat made from Palm Tree
Boat made from Palm Tree

Palm juice – Literally the sweet version of the sap which can be turned into a juice, rather than palm sugar, which we shall talk about later. It is a sweet refreshing drink.

Cambodian palm sugar already!!!

So, you make collect the sap and then you boil it. After boiling it you get essentially unrefined sugar that is made into blocks. Said blocks are then sold and included as a natural ingredient in a lot of Khmer desserts.

Cambodian Palm Sugar farm
Cambodian Palm Sugar farm

How does it taste?

I got to try it literally just after it had been boiled and was still in the mixing pot. It tasted amazing, sweet, obviously, but in that condition almost like a desert of its own making, rather than an ingredient.

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Conclusion on Palm Sugar!

It truly is aiming what you can discover on a short stop by a Tuk-Tuk driver. The stop was fine, the palm sugar amazing and I even got to speak French! Th elderly farm owner spoke French, and can at least bash together a few words. That he spoke French leads one to wonder quite how he managed to survive Khmer Rouge times.

Cambodian Palm Sugar farmer
Cambodian Palm Sugar farmer

I’m very glad also that it led me on this particular odyssey of learning about the national tree of Cambodia. Provider of sugar, booze and even boats! All hail Kratie palm sugar!

Written by Gareth

Gareth Johnson is the founder of Young Pioneer Tours, a published writer, and all round entrepreneur. He enjoys street food, and encourage others to get paid to travel the world.

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