Friday, March 06, 2009

Food - Sarikei Nipah Palm Sugar (Gula Apong)

Gula apong (nipah palm sugar) was and is commonly sold in stalls and shops. As a kid, I used to dip my finger into the dark brown stuff at the shops and licked it with glee. It's also known as attap thng in Hokkien. It is made from the sap of the nipah flower cluster before it blooms. Slits are cut into the bud and a pot is tied below the bud to collect the sap. The sap is filtered to remove any debris. The sap is then boiled until it thickens. Gula apong is used to make local desserts and traditional cakes (kuih). In the old days, you could not get this in West Malaysia.

Sarikei Gula Apong production, 1950s (?)
Source: From the wall of Kings Inn, Sarikei

Sweet heart, let's deduce the year of this undated photo. I would guess this photo to be after World War II, around the time Hedda Morrison snapped her Sarawak photos in late 1940s. The look and feel of this country home in Sarikei was similar to the one inside Hedda's 1947-1948 Sarikei photo with vertical wooden branches but then such houses could last for years so this photo could be from 1950s or 1960s but before 1974 when colour photo development came to Sarikei. Some of the big urns in the photos looked similar to the popular ones used to import salted eggs and century eggs from China. I used to rear fish in those urns on top of the water reservoir of the air well in my rented Repok Road shophouse.

Sarikei Gula Apong, 2007

"The production of gula apong from the inflorescence and infructescence sap is still an important traditional activity for communities living in the vicinity. Most of the traditional cakes and the sugar produced is consumed locally. Nipah sugar is also used to produce alcohol for the local market although the production has declined in recent years." (source: Forestry Sarawak)

Sweetie, do you have a sweet tooth?


- k.arifin - said...

my mum always prepares this gula apong when she boils some ubi kayu. u dip the ubi kayu into gula apong and the taste is fantasticlicious! u should try it.

Daniel Yiek said...

Borneo Post emailed me and wanted to featured the blog post on ABC in their column called "From the blogging world" on a Monday.
They will use only one picture so Ivy, I sent your ABC Special picture as it's the best picture of the lot.

Actually I did the ABC post when I was sleepy...and that is not one of the better posts. ;)

As long as it promotes Sarikei, we should all be glad. And the Malay auntie from the ABC stall will be lagi happy.

Nelson said...

Good news, it is high time to promote sarikei rather than just sitting there waiting for tourists to disembark fr. pandaw and hope that they will come automatically to the abc stalls or kampua mee stalls.

ubi kayu or tapioca, i like to plant it as is is darn easy.

nelson said...

Congratulations Daniel, Borneo Post is doing a great job in featuring bloggers from sarawak.

Greenspot said...


I understand gula apong is used to make fruit wine. The best gula apong used for the purpose comes from Sarawak, I was told. ndonesia gula apong has a different taste I was told. Perhaps someone can confirm this.

QuaChee said...

hey interesting blog. ive never been to sarikei. hope to go there someday. was recently visiting kuching. first time there. and like it a lot.

btw is this similar to gula melaka - except that gula melaka is sold in hard solids? :)

Daniel Yiek said...

Qua Chee

Gula Melaka is from the Date Palm.

whereas Gula Apong is from the Nipah Palm that lined the peat swamps of Sarawak's rivers.

Enjoy your desserts. :))

Mulyady said...

Hi guys,
My kpg still produce gula apong nowadays. sadly, we are losing skilled people to do it because youngster don't want to learn and migrate to city. Search Kampung Tanjung Apong in Google Maps.

Back in 80s, my grandfather used to sell them to a chinese who produce wine at Pending. I believe you still can smell it when you passed through pending near Cement factory.

Be careful on Gula apong in the market. Sometimes people called it gula apong, but actually it is gula Kabong from Indonesia. Many people come to my shop looking for Gula apong because when they used 'gula apong' in the market, their 'kuih tak menjadi'

ongzi said...

gula melaka is from coconut.... not date palm....
itu i gurantee.
wiki tersilap....

Aki Anis said...

Bro I use your gula apong quote for my blog entry. I hope you don't mind and I did acknowledge where I get the quote.
My blog is
We have similar goal to promote our beloved Sarawak.
Thanks again.

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