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Wednesday August 10, 2011

Glorious gula melaka

THE palm sugar, also known as gula melaka, is synonymous with the Malay traditional cooking.

But apart from being the main ingredient in delicacies like sweet porridge, cendol and traditional cakes, it can also be used for reducing cough during common cold by having a mixture of sugar and tamarind juice.

Sweet delight: Gula Melaka is commonly used in traditional Malay kuihs

The palm sugar is also beneficial in lowering the body temperature by consuming it in water.

Malacca’s palm sugar entrepreneur Ideris Zainudin said making palm sugar is a delicate and time-consuming process.

The tapping is done through an incision, made on the young coconut shoot. A cylindrical container is tied to the shoot to collect the colourless sap that flows out of the incision.

“The sap collected needs to be processed fast to prevent its fermentation. If fermentation happens, the sap will taste sour,” he said.

Processing of the sap, through boiling, takes some five to six hours.

During the processing, heat from the fire should be controlled to prevent the sap from getting burnt, Ideris added.

After five to six hours, the boiled sap turns thick and dark brown in colour.

Piping hot stir: Villagers from Kampung Panchur, Masjid Tanah, in a gotong-royong to help make dodol, a local coconut toffee treat, usually served during the Raya festivities.

At this stage, the molten palm sugar is poured into bamboo moulds and left to cool. The molten sugar usually cools down in five minutes and hardens.

Ideris, who has been in the business for 36 years, said the palm sugar tastes sweet and is creamier than the normal sugar, which is only sweet.

Among the palm sugar makers who market their products nation-wide, Ideris has also diversified his trade, by making other traditional food items such as dodol (that uses a lot of palm sugar) as well as cencaluk (shrimp paste which can be consumed with rice) at his house in Kampung Kandang near here.

Popular delicacy: Mohd Karip Mohd Majid co-mixing the kuih keria, a traditional delicacy with gula melaka.

His business venture is called ‘Perniagaan Hj.Ideris’ and markets the products under the label ‘Haji Ideris’.

Ideris began as a petty trader at Padang Pahlawan in Bandar Hilir here at the age of 15.

Now he earns about RM6,000-8,000 per month and his products are available at the hypermarkets.

“With only RM500, I began selling ice blocks and received RM200 per day,” he said. Now his dodol has created a niche market abroad, like in Singapore, Australia and West Asian nations.

Green wond ers: Onde-onde made with glutinous rice flour and fragrant gula melaka inside it.

Ideris also introduced the ‘3-in-1 cencaluk’, which can be consumed instantly without adding chili, onions and limejuice.

He said the idea for the instant cencaluk came from requests by consumers who wanted a cencaluk, which could be consumed straight from the bottle, without adding extra additives and flavour.

The instant cencaluk is ideal for those people who are always busy, he noted and added that the material can last for three months if stored properly. – Bernama