Slowly whisking and boiling away, farmers change coconut nectar into sugar. Coconut sugar was once an ingredient found in every Thai kitchen, but regular table sugar is now the cheaper alternative. In savory dishes, from curries to stir-fries, it gives food more body and depth. As the foundation for Thai desserts, this fragrant sugar has been mixed with Pandan, coconut, or egg to create perfectly crafted bites since the Ayutthaya period. Our student groups can spend the day learning about the traditional way Thai people used to make their sugar, out of coconut flowers.
About two hours outside Bangkok, Plean Yod Tarn is an organic coconut farming community in Samut Songkram. Farmers in this region have a reputation for growing some of the best coconuts in Thailand: the terroir is best suited for cultivating them. Groups will see the farmers climb up the trees to get the coconut sap. From the flower buds, the sweet nectar is collected in bamboo carafes.
While waiting for the containers to fill up, the farmers use Payom wood chips to prevent worms and pests from going into the nectar. Resin from the Payom tree is often used in natural pest control solutions as well. The farmers do not use any other chemicals to preserve the coconut nectar. Afterward, the sap can be used to make the coconut sugar or fermented into vinegar.
As groups enjoy fresh coconuts, gathering around the giant woks with rattan funnels, they often wonder, “why go through such a laborious process?” When people taste the freshly churned thick-brown sugar, they understand: the floral aroma and creaminess are much richer than regular sugar.
Our students will get to learn how these artisans gently reduce the sap until it’s perfectly caramelized. Through the workshops and activities at the Plean Yod Tarn farm, we get to see how the community preserves this local knowledge. Groups will get to taste the sugar in its various stages, along with learning how to make some traditional Thai desserts.
When compared to ordinary granulated sugar, coconut sugar contains more antioxidants, minerals, and fiber. Coconut sugar also has a lower Glycemic index of 54, compared to 60 that regular sugar has, making it the healthier choice. When you’re in Thailand, support local communities and take some coconut sugar home with you.
If you’d like to learn more about rural communities around Thailand or what GROUND Asia does at our service-learning programs in Thailand, please get in touch with us.
GROUND Asia partners with communities across Asia to assist in their sustainable development. The communities we work with are our clients. To meet their expectations, we empower them through mutually beneficial programs to ensure their development needs come first.