Sweet, spicy, umami. So many intense flavours in the one salad dressing. The undisputed caramel essence of the palm sugar is beautifully complemented by quintessential Asian ingredients to create a dressing worth coming back for.
How is Palm Sugar Made?
Palm sugar is made from the sap of palm trees.
There are different types of palm tree which are used to include sago, coconut being the most popular and date.
The sap is then boiled to remove the water content until it becomes a thick syrup. It is then left to cool and harden. The longer the sap is cooked, the richer it becomes. It also becomes much darker in colour so that you can get a range of palm sugar from light brown to a dark, almost black hue.
The texture of the palm sugar also differs. It can be soft and crumbly right through to hard. So tough that sometimes it’s impossible even to cut it with a sharp knife.
The flavour of the palm sugar is so unique, and there is nothing quite like it. A really good block of palm sugar exudes caramel notes and is very smoky. It is not as sweet as regular cane sugar and to be honest, aren’t even comparable.
How Can I Tell If the Palm Sugar Is Pure?
Pure palm sugar is, in fact, quite expensive. To be able to produce just 1 pure block requires an inordinate amount of sap.
Many commercial grades of palm sugar in supermarkets are now supplemented with refined sugar to make the product cheaper.
Unless you know where to get good palm sugar or perhaps have grown up with a particular brand, you’re familiar with; it’s quite hard to tell. The best way to choose palm sugar that is of good quality include:
Colour: Pure palm sugar tend to be very dark in colour. It is a deep brown. Some are almost tan in colour and undoubtedly would have been heavily supplemented with regular sugar.
Aroma: A good palm sugar is incredibly fragrant. You’re not after the sickly-sweet smell of refined sugar but rather a smokey and caramel sweet smell.
Blocks: Palm sugar should come in blocks. The traditional gula melaka in Malaysia, for example, is made in bamboo moulds which creates a cylindrical block.
Where Can I Find Palm Sugar?
Asian grocers all sell palm sugar.
Even the Asian aisles in mainstream supermarkets are now stocking them.
What Is A Good Substitute for Palm Sugar?
The closest substitute for palm sugar is brown sugar. When reduced, brown sugar has a similar consistency to melted palm sugar, sticky and a tinge of caramel. To get it to how we would need it to, it is recommended that molasses be added to the mixture.
Maple syrup could do the trick too, as it also comes from the sap of a tree. But maple syrup has a butterscotch flavour rather than a smoky caramel flavour.
Palm sugar: Find the darkest palm sugar you’re able to get your hands on. While the recipe calls for a small portion of the block, it can be kept in a cool, dry place for years as it is nothing but pure sugar. So, it won’t go entirely to waste, and there are many uses for it.
Water: Required to dissolve the palm sugar.
Rice wine vinegar: The vinegar component of the vinaigrette. Rice wine vinegar was selected to be in keeping with the Asian flavours.
Soy sauce: Adds some much-needed saltiness and umami notes to the recipe. It is a complete contrast to the palm sugar, which is why it works!
Chilli flakes: I wanted to make this salad dressing spicy with a bit of heat. Chilli flakes do the trick very well without changing the flavour of the recipe.
In a small saucepan, add the palm sugar with water and bring to the boil. After it has completely dissolved, on medium heat, boil for another 3 minutes.
Then add the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and chilli flakes. Boil for another 30 seconds.
Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Best Salad for This Dressing
No better way to hone in on those succulent summer fruits then creating a pineapple salad that is to die for. Complement it with sweet red papaya, toasted coconut and juicy heirloom tomatoes. What are you waiting for?
Spicy Palm Sugar Dressing
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- In a small saucepan, add the palm sugar with water and bring to the boil. After it has completely dissolved, on medium heat, boil for another 3 minutes.
- Then add the rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and chilli flakes. Boil for another 30 seconds.
- Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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