Toddy palm plantation is a thriving commercial undertaking in Central Myanmar. Jaggery, a popular sweetmeat akin to candy, is the major product derived from toddy juice.
Toddy juice is poured into big cauldrons and boiled on huge open fire and stirred until it becomes a sticky dough. Then it is cooled and moulded into the shapes desired. Enterprising candy makers add sesame seeds, shredded coconuts or ground red plums to offer a variety of flavours.
The jaggery candies with its distinct flavour and taste are relished by young and old, village folks and urbanites, venerable monks, nuns and laymen. The Buddhist order of the Sanghas uphold lifelong precepts one of which exhorts abstention from partaking solid foods from noon to early dawn of the next day, lasting 17 hours. However the holy monks can take a jaggery or two as medicine. So can the lay persons and nuns who also observe the advanced precepts.
Toddy syrup is also another important product obtained by boiling the toddy juice. This syrup forms an essential ingredient in preparing Myanmar indigenous traditional medicines. These medicines have been in existence since the olden days of the Myanmar kings, and is widely in use side by side with western patent medicines.
Jaggery syrup has other medicinal values too. Thin syrup flavoured with green betel leaves is a sure cure for seasonal colds and slight fevers, when taken hot. Jaggery crushed and fried with oil is a welcome diet for minor stomach upsets in children.
Jaggery earns a respectable place in the popular Myanmar snacks, even preferred over sugar becated with pure ghee and trickled with pure jaggery syrup. It's simply delicious.