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24 September 2020 Persistence of the Salty-Sweet Nipah Sugar in the Popular Foodways of Brunei Darussalam
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Abstract

Brunei Darussalam is a country with a high consumption of cane sugar. White cane sugar owes its popularity to its ability to colonize our tastes. Despite the popularity of white cane sugar, food and drinks sweetened with gula anau, a sweetener obtained from the mangrove palm nipah (Nypa fruticans) are also prevalent in the popular Bruneian foodways. Gula anau is widely used in the Bruneian foodways to prepare traditional snacks, collectively known as kuih, and drinks. We explore the reasons for the continued co-existence of gula anau along with cane sugar in Bruneian foodways. Applying practice theory, we hypothesize that the practice of using gula anau in the popular Bruneian cuisine stems from the unique meanings and taste attributes attached by the tappers, cooks (kuih makers), and consumers. We conducted interviews with four tappers, five kuih makers, and five consumers to collect data. The results show that although gula anau is not produced within Brunei Darussalam anymore due to socio-economic changes, its production in the neighboring Malaysian state of Sarawak has ensured a continuous supply. The tappers and kuih makers appreciate the unique taste of gula anau in specific ways. However, the consumers are losing the ability to appreciate the unique taste. For the tappers, gula anau is still a famine food, true to its origins. For the kuih makers and the consumers, however, the meanings have reconfigured and gula anau is now a symbol of tradition and cultural heritage. These notions of tradition and cultural heritage explain the persistence of gula anau in the popular foodways of Brunei Darussalam.

F. Merlin Franco and Nurzahidah Bakar "Persistence of the Salty-Sweet Nipah Sugar in the Popular Foodways of Brunei Darussalam," Journal of Ethnobiology 40(3), 368-385, (24 September 2020). https://doi.org/10.2993/0278-0771-40.3.368
Published: 24 September 2020
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