Known locally as the thot not, Borassus flabellifer, commonly known as doub palm, palmyra palm, tala palm, toddy palm and even wine palm, this species can be found everywhere in An Giang. The local name is derived from th’not in the Khmer language.
They provide a thirst-quenching drink, toddy, made by collecting the sap of its flowers. The palm sugar made from this also carries a special sweetness. The tall palms also beautifully break the monotony of rice fields in the Mekong Delta province.
The thot not juice is often misunderstood as juice from its fruit. But this is actually sap tapped from its flowers. The juice has a light sweet taste and is often served with some slices of succulent thot not fruit. The drink is said to contain many minerals and vitamins that are good for health. It tastes best served with ice.
The tastiest sap is the one harvested early in the morning. If harvested in the evening the sap will get sour and have a fermented taste, which is turned into toddy, an alcoholic drink. Thot not juice is sold in many sidewalk stalls and markets in An Giang.
Thot not plays an important role in An Giang’s dessert scene. It is used as the sweetener in most dishes. The thot not pie, rich and sweet, is a steal at VND15,000 ($0.6) a pack.
To make the pies, the pulp of ripened thot not fruit is ground and the juice extracted. The flesh is then mixed with rice flour and thot not sugar and steamed.
Other snacks made here include sweet soups and jelly.
A sweet gift
Thot not sugar is one of the most famous delicacies of An Giang. It’s extracted from the thot not sap then cooked and hardened into round brown clots. The brown sugar is recommended because it retains the natural and original taste. The whiter version is refined. The sugar is not just used in daily cooking, it is also a popular gift item. Some sugar makers even let you make the sugar yourself.
A photo cover
Photographs taken in An Giang never fail to feature the palms against the rising and setting suns. If you show a Vietnamese person a photograph with these palms, she or he will know that you have been to An Giang.