Have you ever had ais kacang or other Asian iced desserts and wondered what the large translucent ovals were?
They are actually palm seeds also known as attap seeds.
They are the immature fruits of the nipa palm "or mangrove palm", which grow in soft mud and slow-moving tidal and river waters.
The nipa palm's trunk grows beneath the ground and only the leaves and flower stalk grow upwards above the surface.
It is considered native to China, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaya, the Philippines, Queensland, and the Australian Northern Territory.
The flowers are a globular inflorescence of female flowers at the tip with catkin-like red or yellow male flowers on the lower branches.
The flower produces woody nuts arranged in a globular cluster on a single stalk. The ripe nuts separate from the ball float away on the tide.
The flower cluster can be "tapped" to yield a sweet, edible sap that is collected to produce local alcoholic beverages called tuba, bahal, or tuak. A fruit cluster is ready to be tapped when the unripe fruits are at their peak sweetness. The Attap seeds (or also known as Attap chee) are collected as a byproduct of the sap harvesting process.
The seeds themselves are sweet, translucent, gelatinous balls and commonly used as a dessert ingredient in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore
When cooled and served in syrup, they make an excellent dessert in their own right!
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