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A Sweet Treat

By Malkanthi Leitan

Feature Story from "Explore Sri Lanka"
(Article provided by the Sri Lanka Embassy)


Jaggery (popularly known as hakuru) has been a popular sweet as well as a much used sweetening agent in many a traditional dessert.  IT is made from the Kaffery Plam (Caryota Urens), an attractive palm, also known as the Sago Palm, being outstanding for its much divided leaves and triangular leaflets.  Known as Kitul in Sinhala and Kundal Panai in Tamil, the Jaggery Palm was chiefly cultivated in the Kandyan hills in ancient times for the sake of its sap, which is drawn, boiled down and crystallized into a type of brown sugar - jaggery.

Today, kitul jaffery is prepared in many areas of Sri Lanka, including Bandarawela, Badulla, Ingiriya, Kandy, Nuwara Eliya and other places.  It is just one of the many products that can be derived from the Kitul or Jaggery Palm Tree.  For example, toddy - a slightly intoxicating but nutritious drink - is obtained by tapping the tree when the tree is 15-20 years old and commences to flower.  The sap, known as pani, is also used as a sweetener.  From the interior of the stem, the sago-like starch can also be made into bread of boiled into gruel.  Kitul fiber, made from the sheaths of the leaf stalks, is very strong and can be made into ropes, brushes, baskets, fishing lines and other articles.  Kitul palm wood is much stronger and durable than that of other palms and can be used for many domestic purposes.

Ranjini, from Bandarawela, says that making jaggery is easy.  She makes it by boiling kitul pani (the sap of the jaggery or kitul palm tree).  "You have to boil it over a slow fire and stir until it becomes sticky and thick anddoes not drip from the spoon you are stirring it with," says Ranjini.  "It usually takes around 20 minutes to get the right consistency," she says that the kitul pani must be the genuine thing and should not contain additives such as refined white sugar.

Next the mixture is poured into a coconut shell to harden.  Ranjini recommends a well moistened coconut shell or a dry that has been lined with the leaf of a plantain tree.  These methods will ensure that the mixture will not stick making it difficult to remove.  Once the mixture has hardened, which doesn't take very long, all you have to do is to tip over the coconut shell and the jaggery or hakuru will come out of its mold in its brown half-globe form.

Jaggery is best made from kitul pani.  You can always tell if it is kitul jaggery because the product will be dark brown in color and soft.  Jaggery can also be made from pani from the coconut palm tree - polpani.  Unfortunately today, where pot jaggery is concerned, sugar is added and it doesn't give you the real distinctive flavor of jaggery.  Sometimes kitul jaggery can be adulerated with sugar, too.  Always buy the darkest and softest jaggery, light and hard jaggery has probably been adulterated with sugar.  However, genuine coconut or pol jaggery, without the addition of refined sugar, has a high nutrition content.  For every 100 g of edible portion you get 1,638 mp of calcium and 62 mg phosphorous - bone, teeth and muscle builders.

During the Sinhala and Hindu New Year, jaggery or hakuru, is a popular ingredient in many a dish.  Tradtional sweets such as bibikkan, kalu dodol and halapa taste good with jaggery.


From the Lankan Kitchen
~Recipes~

The breadfruit, which is in season in most parts of the island is a starchy vegetable.  However, the islanders consider it a fruit, and call it del (breadfruit).

Sri Lankans have applied their imaginative talents to the preparation of many palatable dishes from this tropical fruit.

When in season, it is available in most local markets and in some supermarkets too.  The best way to select a good fruit is to choose one with a skin that is smooth to the touch and is yellowish-green in color.  And the proper way to clean the fruit is: first take the skin off completely, then cut into sections and take out the core.  Make sure to cut away the dummala (bluish parts of the fruit) if any, as these parts will spoil the flavor of the curry.

Cut the cleaned fruit into thin slices and soak in water with a few drops of time, and after a few minutes drain and dry in a towel.  Deep fry in oil (395oF) until light brown.  Drain oil, lay fried slices in absorbent paper.  When required as a savory snack, sprinkle the slices with salt and chili powder.  And if you prefer to have it as a candied snack, coat the dried fried slices with sugar syrup.  These snacks - savory and candied chips can be kept for two to three months, provided you keep them in an airtight container.

~~Some or all of the following recipes may be difficult to make in North America because of the uncommon ingredients.~~

Breadfruit Curry

Ingredients:
1 cup thick coconut milk
2 cups thin coconut milk
Salt to taste
Good pinch of saffron
3 green chilis
Few red onions sliced
1 teaspoon powdered Maldive fish
2 teaspoons raw curry powder
1 teaspoon fenugreek (uluhal)
Few pepper corns
Piece of cinnamon

Tempering:
Onions, few pieces of red dry chilis, 1 teaspoon mustard seeds, curry leaves, (karapincha and rampe) little oil.

Method:
Cut the breadfruit into cubes (1 inch) and wash, adding a few drops of lime juice to the water.  Rub in salt and saffron to breadfruit pieces.  Add sliced onions, green chilis, Maldive fish, fenugreek, curry powder, peppercorns, curry leaves, cinnamon and thin milk and cook on a slow fire stirring occasionally.  When the pieces are tender (20 minutes), add the thick milk, simmer for a few minutes.

Variations:
Add a few spinach leaves to the curry and/or heat oil in another pan, temper some onions, chili pieces, curry leaves, mustard seeds and mix in the prepared curry.


Potato Badun

1/2 lb potatoes
thick coconut milk
a pinch of saffron
1 dessertspoonful ground or powdered dry chili
a sprig of curry leaves
a piece of rampa and lemon grass
a dessertspoonful Maldive fish
salt to taste
2 slices green ginger
3 cloves garlic
coconut oil
3 or 4 sliced onions

Boil and peel the potatoes, put into a pan with sufficient thick coconut milk to cover, and add the rest of the ingredients.  Allow to cook over a moderate fire.  Meanwhile, fry the onions in the oil in another pan, and when browned nicely turn the contents of the first pan into this.  Cook over  moderate heat (fire) until the gravy dries up.

Snacks and Starters

Cutlis (Meatballs)

225 g beef
25 g salt
1/2 tsp pepper
25 ml vinegar
450 g potato
1 onion
3 springs mint leaves
1 green chili
1 stlak celery
1.25 liters oil
1 egg
50 g breadcrumbs

Mince the beef and season with salt, pepper and vinegar.  Boil and mash the potato and chop the onion, mint leaves, chili and celery.  Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the book and cook for 3-4 minutes until browned.  Add the onion, mint leaves, chili and celery and cook until the onion has softened slightly.  Add the mashed potato and mix well together.  Roll into small balls or flat cakes.  Beat the eggs and coat the cutlis with the egg before dipping into the breadcrumbs.  Heat the oil and deep fry the cutlis until browned.  Drain well.

Kokis

1 egg
250 g rice flour
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp salt
1 liter oil
coconut milk

Beat the egg.  Sieve flour into a bowl and add the egg, turmeric, salt and sufficient coconut milk to make a thick batter.  Heat the oil and when bubbling hold the kokis mould in the oil until the mold is hot.  Carefully dip the mold into the batter, taking care not to submerge it completely.  Remove from the batter and place in the hot oil where the batter should separate from the mold but still retain it's shape as it fries.  If the batter sticks it may bee to be eased from the mold with a wooden toothpick.  Repeat the process until all the batter is used.


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