With newfound attention on the island state’s cuisine and culture, the prized coconut jaggery has been the newest ingredient to bask in the spotlight. But what makes this jaggery different than the other jaggery varieties from India? Read more to find out.
The yellow-coloured liquid or coconut sap that forms the basis of Lakshadweep’s most prized ingredient – the coconut jaggery, is special for many reasons. To begin with, the sap is processed by slowly simmering over an open flame, with coral stones dunked in throughout. Once the sap boils for a period of four hours, it thickens to form a jelly-like consistency that is the jaggery. Said to be diabetic-friendly, this jaggery is meant to possess many beneficial properties – lending itself to a variety of applications such as sweets, sweetener for tea or even as a spread for rotis and bread.
Forming the basis of the popular local delicacy on the island – the Lakshadweep halwa or unda, this coconut jaggery is derived by condensing the sap with corals, since it is believed that the stones draw out any sourness from the sap, thus removing the acidity from the substance. Due to the arduous process that it takes to make the jaggery – with 30 litres of sap only yielding 2.5 kilos of jaggery – the price of this plant-based product goes as high as ₹1000 per kg. Made by the community of people who reside on the Thinnakara island, it is said that fifteen people live exclusively on the piece of land in order to collect the sap from trees during peak season.
The jaggery which is a key ingredient in the unda – a shelf-stable sweet delicacy that was created for sailors who would be at sea for weeks on end, is a product that is not meant to be refrigerated. So much has the popularity of this jaggery spread wide that pre-orders must be made to avail a portion of this ‘exotic’ ingredient, for personal use. With a dense yet velvety texture, the golden-brown coconut jaggery is a true reflection of Lakshadweep’s rich culinary heritage.