Indonesian palm sugar is a natural sweetener made from the sap of palm trees, and usually it comes in round block- or half cylinder-shape depending on the molds.
In order to produce sap, a palm tree has to be 15 – 20 years old. Palm trees only flower when they are matured, in which the sweet sap is yielded. The species of this tree is called Arenga pinnata.
The Making Process
The process in making palm sugar is quite easy (I am being sarcastic!). You’ll have to know how to climb a palm tree manually with the help of a piece of rope around your ankle for support. Once you are up there, find the male flower buds, tie them very very tight to prevent them from flowering. The nutrients that are supposedly used to nourish the flowers will become liquid sugar. After you let the buds tied from a few days to a week, they will become swollen. This is the time when you climb up there again and slice open the bud a little so that you can collect the liquid with a bucket made of the leaves. Then cook the liquid for 4 – 6 hours until it is reduced and become thick. Once it reaches the desired consistency (dense and sticky), pour it into molds. Once they are cooled, they become solid. Take them out and you are ready to cook. Ha!
Well…. it is not that simple. Check out the video on youtube. It is in Indonesian, but it captures what I write above. 😉
I have a fond memory of kecap manis, Indonesian sweet soy sauce. When I was little, my late and beloved mama used to give me afternoon snack. It is a plate of sliced tomatoes drizzled with kecap manis and some sugar. Very simple but the memory lasts forever.
Ahh… Just writing about this makes me miss my mama a lot. I used to sit on the porch after my afternoon shower, and she would offer me the snack. I would eat them all and she would then stroke my hair and said, “Very good, Lily.”
Many Indonesian dishes use kecap manis, from fried noodles, soup, to chili sauce. Sometimes my daughter would just drizzle it on top of her steamy hot rice and eat it with kerupuk and fried eggs.
You can find kecap manis in Asian stores around you. There are a few brands and they are all good. I like Bango brand and ABC brand. There is no particular reason, it’s just that I am used to them.
The difference between kecap manis and soy sauce is that it is sweeter, hence the name manis means sweet. It is thicker in consistency and darker in color. It has that light sweet molasses tone into it.
If you are gluten intolerance of allergic to gluten, you can make your own kecap manis. It is actually very simple.
Check out my recipe for Homemade Kecap Manis.
Miso paste is one of main food staples in Japanese cooking.
You can get it in tubs or in plastic bags. Many conventional grocery stores sell it these days. Big health food grocers like Wholefoods, New Seasons, and Zupan Market carry this item. The price range from $5 – $10, depending on the amount, type, brand, and where you get it.
There are three styles of miso: white, yellow, and red. The darker the color, the stronger the flavor. If you are new to miso, I would suggest the white miso. I personally like stronger flavor, so I used yellow miso and sometimes red miso.
The one you see here is from Japan. Our friend brought it for us when he came visited us.
Not only does it have umami that enhances the flavor of your cooking, miso also is a good source of protein, vitamin K, omega 3 fatty, zinc, phosphorus, and copper manganese.
Miso is a fermented soybean with salt and a type of fungus called Aspergillus Orizae. This fungus has enzymes that break down the protein from the soybean into amino acids and draw out the flavor of miso.
Amino acids are important for our body. We need them to grow, break down foods, repair body tissues, and to perform body functions (walk, run, yoga, CrossFit, etc). It also can be used as a source of energy.
Bottom line: miso is very good for you.
Try it out and see how you like it if you haven’t.
Trumbo P, Schlicker S, Yates AA, Poos M; Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, The National Academies. Dietary reference intakes for energy, carbohydrate, fiber, fat, fatty acids, cholesterol, protein and amino acids. J Am Diet Assoc. 2002;102(11):1621-1630.
Mushroom powder seasoning is the substitute for umami flavor that meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and cheese has naturally. (more…)