Boiled down from the sap of
either the palmyra/toddy palm or the coconut palm, palm sugar and
coconut sugar come to market in Thailand in huge tins called beep,
earning both these sugars the name "nahm tahn beep".
Interchangeable in recipes,
they are used to sweeten or simply for balance and complexity in
the seasoning of many savory Thai dishes. Brown sugar is typical
in the North, where sugar-cane thrives and palm trees and scarce.
White granulated sugar is a staple in every kitchen and on noodle
shop tables. Either makes a decent substitute for palm sugar. Palm
sugar's texture and color vary from a lusciously thick pale and
shiny paste resembling solidified honey, to hard, plump little
cakes that can be broken up and chopped or crushed down to a
powdery, measurable state. If palm sugar hardens in the jar,
microwave gently to soften it.