Kaong is sweet palm fruit, most notably used as an ingredient in haluhalo. It’s the fairly small jellybean-shaped nut or seed of the sugar palm tree, which of course grows in the Philippines.
Scientific name: Arenga pinnata
What Color is Kaong?
Though kaong is traditonally without color (translucent white), in recent years, colored versions like red, green and even pink have come onto the market.
Want to see RAW kaong nuts and how they're harvested? Check out aboutfilipinofood.com/kaong
Where to Buy Kaong?
Kaong is often bought in jars in which the fruits are immersed in syrup. Bottled kaong is available most definitely at Filipino grocery stores and even at pan-Asian supermarkets. It’s on the same shelf as the macapuno and nata de coco, which are also favorite ingredients for haluhalo!
Online, you can buy the major TRUSTED brands like UFC, Tropics and Manna on Amazon where it’s called “Coconut Gel,” “Sweet Sugar Palm Fruit” or “Coconut Sugar Fruit.”
There are so many other companies that manufacture and bring to market different kinds of bottled kaong — Barrio Fiesta, Kapuso, Pinoy Fiesta, Angelina, Bulacan, Laguna, Buenas, and Elsie’s… but be careful about quality.
Ingredient list from the label of a Bulacan-branded jar of kaong on sale in Canada: sugar palm, refined cane sugar, water, acidulant (citric acid / E330) and artificial banana flavoring
Keywords: gomuti palm, irok, arenga palm, sugar palm seeds, enau, black-fiber palm, Arenga saccharifera
Local names in different parts of the Philippines: Bagatbat (Negros Oriental); batbat, ebiok-ibiok (Bohol), cabo negro (Spanish/Pilipino)
Ever think of establishing a sugar-palm plantation?
The trees can be easily propagated through seeds!
Get a large piece of land and clear it of vegetation. Dig a planting hole enough for the seedlings to settle with a spacing of 2 x 2 m. Use dried leaves as mulch to maintain soil moisture. Brush the area every three months to ensure that the plant has no vegetation competition. Fertilize if needed.
The sugar palm flowers during the country’s summer months, i.e., from March to May.
The buds, either raw or cooked, make fine salad. The immature seeds are also edible. They are boiled with sugar and eaten as sweets. These can be stored and preserved in bottles. (This sounds very familiar.)
Boiled starch and sap can be used to feed hogs.
Other uses: The sugar palm yields sugar, starch, fermented drink, alcohol, and thatching and fibrous materials that are used in industrial work and cottage industries. The leaves are used for thatching roofs. The midribs of the leaflets are often used for round brooms and woven into coarse baskets.
Splits prepared from the petioles are used in making baskets or tables, stands, screens, boxes, and other light pieces of furniture.
The most important industrial yield of the kaong palm is the black tough fiber locally known as yumot or cabo negro. This fiber is produced at the base of the petioles and is used in manufacturing, cleaning brushes, and thatching materials. The fiber is known for its durability. It can stand long exposure to either fresh or salt water and is also resistant to fire.
Cabo (think cable) means “rope” and negro means “black.” In the early 20th century, cabo-negro in the Philippines referred to the black horsehair-like fiber of various palms. The fiber was known to be very durable under water and was used for making cables for towing and ropes for the standing rigging of vessels.
Now that’s something to think about next time we chew on those kaong pieces in our haluhalo!