Coconut sugar and Palm sugar (Gula Melaka) are two different types of sugars used in southeast Asia. Both are natural sweeteners that come from trees. But the problem is that coconut sugar is sometimes called Coconut Palm sugar, which can lead to confusion between the two types of sugar. However, Coconut sugar comes from the blossoms of coconut trees while is harvested from the trunks of palm trees.
How is the taste for both?
We will find these sugars are not as sweet as refined white sugars. The most significant difference between the two lies in the fact that Coconut sugar has a butterscotch caramel taste similar to that of Brown sugar. While Gula Melaka’s flavor has many of the same notes but comes with a smokier taste. If we are using them for cakes or other desserts, we may need to add more to achieve the same level of sweetness. They have a nice caramel-like taste which is similar to natural Molasses, but lighter.
How do we know if we buying the correct type of sugar?
Since as mentioned the product name can be confusing sometimes as some of them might use interchangeably. That’s why it’s best if we are looking for a specific type and go by the ingredients on the package rather than the title on the label. Aside from our local store, we can also find both sugars in many health food stores or gourmet food stores. Melaka sugar usually come in rock form while Coconut Sugar will normally come in the fine powder-like form. A ‘100%’ or ‘Pure’ is something you will need to take note to make sure if we’re buying the correct sugar but not mixing with order kind of sugar.
When is the BEST time to use both of these sugars?
Coconut sugar is best used in dishes where its caramel notes will be beneficial. We will get more benefit from it in baked goods like cookies and cakes, but it can also be used as a sweetener for coffee and tea.
Melaka sugar works best in traditional Malay/ Indonesian desserts where the more intense fragrance and stronger flavor will complement other strong flavors in the dish.
How to cook with them?
For Coconut sugar, we can always turn them into a paste-like form to be easily used as dressing just like consistency that similar to honey. Just add it directly as you would regular sugar (fine powder form) to any dessert you might be making. Make sure always taste-test as the sweet taste will be different than refined white sugar. While for hard rock form Melaka sugar is more challenging to use. We can either pound it or process it into powder form or melt it with a little water in a saucepan to create a syrup-like liquid. The resulting taste is like a caramel-flavored brown sugar, but lighter, without any aftertaste.
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