Tag Archives: sweet

From Sugarcane to Sugar, Jaggery and More

Whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or not, sugar is an undeniably an important part of modern life. Sadly most of us are not aware of what it’s made up of, how it’s made or what it offers to the body. So here’s a sneak peek into the world of sugar and jaggery.

It All Starts With Sugarcane…..

While sugarcane and sugar beets are the two most important sugar crops, cane-sugar undoubtedly dominates the world.  Speaking of sugar cane, did you know it can be processed to derive either sugar or jaggery? Furthermore, syrups like molasses, golden syrup, treacle, cane syrup and so on can also be made. This article will focus on sugar and jaggery.

Manufacture ….

It may not be the chocolate factory that Charlie visited, but the manufacture of sugar is pretty intense. Massively simplified, the process can be understood as follows:



How do you like your sugar? Brown or white? Well, the sugar obtained in the above process is brown in colour (called brown/turbinado/raw sugar) due to the presence of small amount of molasses. No wonder it has a distinctive taste! But most of us are accustomed to the taste of white sugar for which further processing of washing, filtering, decolourization, recrystallization and drying is done.

Jaggery, on the other hand, is an unrefined sugar product and is occasionally called “non-centrifugal sugar,” because it’s not spun during processing to remove the ‘nutritious’ molasses. The process starts out the same, by extracting the juice. The juice is allowed to stand in large containers so that any sediment settles to the bottom. Thereafter it is strained to produce a clear liquid.

The clear liquid is boiled in large, flat-bottomed pans. During this process, the jaggery is stirred and the impurities are skimmed off the top until only a yellow, dough-like paste remains which on cooling gives jaggery.

The Nutrition Profile…..

Jaggery contains more nutrients than refined/white sugar because of its molasses content. Molasses is rich in vitamins and minerals. This is why brown sugar is considered better than white sugar since the latter is stripped of whatever molasses remains.

Not to forget, loads of chemicals are used during the sugar making processes. For example, the step called ‘clarification’ is done by adding calcium hydroxide and bubbling carbon dioxide through the sugarcane juice. However, clarification in jaggery making process is chemical-free since the juice is just allowed to stand and the clear liquid is strained for use.

And let’s not forget the additional processes in converting raw sugar to white sugar will bring more chemicals into the picture. Molasses is a nutritious by-product of the sugar making process, which is usually removed when making refined sugar. Including the molasses adds a few micronutrients to the final product.


It’s definitely better to substitute jaggery or molasses for sugar but it isn’t wise to binge on these sweeteners either. Remember for any food ingredient, you can get the best of it when used in moderation!

Festival Special – Deciphering Modaks

Come festival time, we always celebrate and rejoice with a wide spread of traditional dishes dedicated to that occasion. Ganesh Chaturthi is one such occasion celebrated with Modaks among other foods.

Modaks are dumplings made across India in various sweet and savory variations, although the sweet variant is more popular. The modak can either be steamed or deep fried.


Known by various names, these dumplings are called modak in Marathi, Konkani and in Gujarati languages. Kozhakkatta in Malayalam. Modhaka or Kadubu in Kannada. Modhakam or Kozhakkattai in Tamil and Kudumu in Telugu.

Although there are many modern innovations, the classic modak includes a rice flour or maida (refined flour) dough with a jaggery/sugar and coconut filling. Most of the times the steamed modaks are placed in vessels but they may also be steamed in turmeric or jackfruit leaves. The stuffing can include:

  • Toor dal, jaggery, and fresh coconut
  • Jaggery, til/sesame seeds, fresh coconut
  • Channa dal, coriander leaves, dill/shepu leaves, mint leaves and green chilies (savory)

The deep fried modaks are mostly made with maida flour and can have a variety of fillings like:

  • Toor dal, jaggery, and dry coconut
  • Jaggery, til/sesame seeds, and dry coconut
  • Roasted channa dal, sugar, dry coconut and dry fruits

Another regional variation is the besan modaks or steamed rice flour balls steeped in flavored coconut milk. The steamed modaks are served with ghee or coconut milk.

Apart from the classic modaks, the modern twists include the use of millet flour instead of rice flour. Fancy innovations include chocolate modaks, shrikhand modak, green peas modak, and the list is endless.

It’s not hard to see that what goes into making the traditional modaks is rich in energy, protein, and good fats. While the different dals prove to be good sources of protein, jaggery, coconut, til/sesame seeds and ghee are power packed and provide good fats as well.

The medium chain triglycerides or MCTs in coconut is said to boost metabolism and also help boost the body’s power to ward off infections, both beneficial for the winter/rainy season.

Ghee, on the other hand, is a concentrated source of energy and a rich source of DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), a crucial element for brain development. It is also said that during the rainy season, the oils and fat help nourish the skin.

So go ahead and enjoy the modaks guilt free but remember moderation is key!