Kitul Pani – The sweet sap which is loved by all
This process starts with tapping: the beady, vine-like flowers of the palm are pierced by a tapper, and drool their sap into a pot hung under the inflorescence. Each palm can be tapped around seven times in its lifetime, with each subsequent draw usually yielding less than the last. Tappers “will typically climb their palms twice a day” to make sure any cuts healed by the plant are reopened and re-tapped. This raw, watery sap is white and frothy, clinically alive with yeast fermenting it — potentially into kithul toddy or raa. To avoid this, it is “boiled down pretty much immediately” over a timber fire, which gives the treacle its woody undertones and its viscous consistency. Once boiled, the pani is ready for the plate — preserved au natural, the treacle can last a couple of months at best. Boiling it further down once makes a form of unrefined sugar which is also used for many types of sweets, desserts and even paired with unsweetened black tea.
Discover the delicious treats made out of this sweet elixir on your next visit to Sri Lanka
This is definitely one of Mother Nature’s more heartwarming creations. Locals mostly know it as Red (Rathu in Sinhala) Jambu! But this sweet, crunchy tropical fruit is also known as Rose Apples, Wax Apples, Water Apple and even Java Apples!
A fruit that is loved by all, including the birds and bats! The Jambu season starts in February with the blooming of dainty Jambu flowers. As the days turn to weeks, you will begin to see little red fruits emerging, like small rubies hanging in a tree. When the tree is in full blossom, it is truly a treat to the eyes. Excited kids and adults will rush over to climb the tree to grab a hand full of rose apples, or they will scurry around tree searching for ones that fell fresh to the ground. The Jambu picking is just as much fun as eating them because the fruit looks so rosy and shiny!
There are two types of Jambu that is loved in Sri Lanka. The Red Jambu (Syzygium Samarangense), is a small-sized Jambu that has a beautiful red shine that shocks your palate with its tang right before turning sweet! It is native to Sri Lanka. Then there is the one that travelled here all the way from Malaysia. Also known as Pini Jambu! Unlike the Red Jambu, this one is larger in size, paler in colour and has a more watery taste, but like red Jambu, it certainly delivers a crunch with every bite you take!
Jambu is mostly enjoyed, right after it’s plucked straight from the tree. Jambu can be quite addictive because you simply cannot stop after popping one right in your mouth! Of course, many people have found inventive ways of enjoying Jambu. Some cut it up in half, throw it to a bowl, sprinkle it with salt, pepper and even some sugar and mix it up and eat. That is usually called Jambu Achcharu. Some who enjoy keeping them preserved usually pickle them, delicious addition to your rice!
All in all Jambu, Rose apple or whatever you choose to call it, is an incredible fruit. Not only does it look plump & rosy to the eyes, and it is also tangy and sweet and has an addictive crunch. When you visit Sri Lanka, this is one tropical fruit you should definitely try at least once. And we can guarantee that it will take you and your taste buds on a tropical flavour adventure you never planned!