- Everyday Life
Jaggery - India's traditional sweetener
05 Apr 2022
India is known all over the world for its diverse cuisine, which can delight us with its enormous wealth of intense spices. Indian restaurants have been an integral part of the cityscape of European metropolises for many years. For a long time, Indian restaurants in Germany did not serve much more than the classics of North Indian cuisine, such as palak paneer or chicken tikka masala, but in the meantime India's enormous regional diversity of food and cooking traditions has found its way to Germany as well. If you look at the menus of Indian restaurants in big cities like Berlin, Hamburg or Frankfurt, you will increasingly find regional delicacies such as southern Indian Dosas and Idlis or the lentil dish Matki Chi Usal from Maharashtra in the west of the country. In some restaurants and street food markets you can even try the so-called chaat – savoury snacks that are usually offered at street stalls in India. However, special caution is required here, because the chillies that are used for these Indian snacks have already brought tears to many people’s eyes.
However, Indian cuisine is not only characterised by the frequent use of fiery chillies and intensive masalas (spice mixtures). While strolling through one of the many bazaars in India’s towns and villages, you will surely smell the sweet scent of mithai (Indian sweets). These sweets are an integral part of Indian cuisine and are very popular with young and old. While ordinary sugar is often used in Germany to prepare desserts and pastries, in South Asian countries, such as India or Sri Lanka, jaggery is used instead.
Jaggery refers to unrefined sugar that is extracted from the sugar cane plant using traditional methods. In addition, the sap of the date palm and the so-called toddy palm is also used to make jaggery. The sugar cane or palm juice is heated to a temperature of up to 200 degrees, while stirring frequently, until a viscous yellow mass is formed. This is poured into large moulds, left to cool and can then be sold in large blocks. India is the world’s leading producer of jaggery and even has the world’s largest jaggery market in the state of Uttar Pradesh. This traditional sweetener is used in a variety of dishes in Indian cuisine: This natural sugar is not only used for sweet mithai, but also for savoury dishes such as sambar and rasam, which are a part and parcel of many south Indian meals. The sweetener is also often used in Gujarati cuisine to balance out spicy, salty or sour tastes.
Do you want to see how Jaggery is produced? Check out the video in our Youtube Channel, in which you can see the process from the sugar cane fields to the yellow Jaggery!
It does not come as a surprise that jaggery is so popular in South Asia. After all, it is said to have many health-promoting properties, whereas excessive consumption of white granulated sugar, by contrast, can lead to serious diseases such as diabetes. In India's traditional Ayurvedic medicine, jaggery is primarily used to treat throat and lung infections.
If you want to try jaggery yourself, you can buy India's traditional sugar in one of the many Indian supermarkets in Germany. Jaggery can also be purchased in special Ayurveda shops and of course there are a couple of online shops that have added jaggery to their product range. By the way, you can also use jaggery for German cake recipes and thus replace the unhealthy white sugar!
Have you ever cooked or baked with jaggery yourself and want to share your recipe ideas with us? Then feel free to write to us in the comments or to [email protected].
Written by: Ferdinand Schlechta
Cover Photo: Ganesh Partheeban - Unsplash
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