Ark of Taste – Sri Lanka’s beloved natural sweetener: Kithul Treacle
Sri Lankan curd, traditionally made from buffalo milk has an unmatched creaminess. The curd is made through natural fermentation, however a very distinct part of the secret to this curd’s wonderful taste and texture lies not only in the coarse and porous nature of the baked clay pot (kiri hatti) in which it’s set, which provides natural insulation, but the treacle that complements it. Made from pure sap extracted from the inflorescence of the kitul palm, Caryota urens, which is native to Sri Lanka, this natural sweetener is not only flavourful, also a natural syrup with low glycemic index that is ideal for those conscious about blood sugar levels and indeed an essential ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine – I suggest a taste indulgence of banana granola with buffalo curd or even the bowl of goodness that drizzles Kithul treacle at Breakfast at Taru Villas, should be definitely your morning breakfast ritual.
Banana Granola made with Kithul Treacle, from our breakfast menu.
Kithul has a much lower calorie content than coconut treacle, bees honey or even Maple syrup, with a high nutritional content and contains many essential vitamins and minerals including iron, vitamin C, calcium, and phosphorous.
This native Sri Lankan treacle, is made from the toddy (kithul) palm and is a perennial favourite among many dishes in Taru Villas from breakfast, lunch, teatime and dinner. Somewhat like maple syrup, it is smooth and thick, without the cloying sweetness of sugar or honey.
Kithul-tapping is carried out by certain communities in Sri Lanka, with both men and women collecting the sap from trees and then boiling it to produce the sweetener (as well as jaggery, another natural sweetener).
These secret techniques have been handed down from generation to generation throughout the centuries, with rituals and beliefs contributing to the preservation of the tree species, thus preventing extinction. One such ritual involves leaving the first flower of a Kitul tree in honour of the deities. This ensures that there will be seeds, and therefore, a new generation of Kitul can be grown. And at Taru Villas tea time ritual truly celebrates this native sweetener in its treats that we serve all the guests in the late afternoon.
Sri Lankan tradition states that the Kithul treacle extraction dates back to 2000 years ago. And the traditional areas of production include the Central Mountains of Sri Lanka. The people inhabiting rural Sri Lanka respect the Kitul tree too as it provides many memorabilia’s, sweet treats, destination gifts from nature in the form of sap, flour, timber, and fibre.
You have to make a trip to Taru Villas, and consider toasting the sweetener from the diverse spectrum of dishes. Lake Lodge’s hallmark cocktail, Basil Fawlty embraces the sweetener’s versatility, marrying coconut rum, pineapple, basil and Kithul treacle to add an aromatic smokiness to your taste buds. Or do as our guests do when at Taru Villas – Yala with Kithul Chicken Wings or maybe a time treat of Pol Peni – desiccated coconut soaked in Kithul treacle in a light pancake, are ways of proving that Kithul can yield in the Sri Lankan soul in wellbeing and nutrition than the good ole sugar cane.
Taru Villas is a collection of small boutique hotels and luxury private villas in some of the most captivating locations across Sri Lanka.
By Mahika Chandrasena – Taru Villas