Thinnakara/Kavaratti (Lakshadweep), Feb 10 (PTI) Saifulla and his wife are busy cooking various dishes for lunch as tourists are set to visit their 'thatched roof restaurant' after a long swim in the sea.
Even as they busily fry the fish that they caught a few hours ago, they often stir a yellow-coloured liquid in a big vessel on the hearth.
A closer look would reveal two coral stones placed inside the vessel.
Saifullah's wife runs the small restaurant on Thinnakara island, catering exclusively to tourists who visit the island enroute Bangaram island.
The liquid they boil is the lifeline for Saifullah and family and about 10 others staying in this island.
The liquid is the sap of the coconut tree extracted carefully by them. This liquid is boiled continuously for over 4 hours so they get a jelly like substance, which is coconut jaggery.
The coral stones are used to remove the sourness from the sap, to extract sweet jaggery, an exclusive product of the Lakshadweep islanders, which they use generously to make the Lakshadweep Halwa and other sweets.
"If we condense 30 litres of coconut sap, (locally known as meera) we can get only 2.5 kg of jaggery. So it's very expensive, costing Rs 1,000 per kg," Saifullah told PTI.
The demand is so high for this product that one needs to pre-book if they want to get the jaggery.
The islanders, who believe that this jaggery is safe for diabetes patients, say that such people may use the jaggery for making sweets, preparing tea and as a bread spread or sweetener.
The islanders said this product has a "very long shelf life" and it should not be refrigerated.
"This is a special product of Lakshadweep. We need to use the coral stones collected from the sea to remove the sourness. Otherwise, we cannot use the jaggery as it would be too sour," Saifullah said.
Fifteen-odd people stay on this island, exclusively to tap the sap and make jaggery from it.
These people move out of the island when the rainy season begins as smaller boats from Agatti Island stop service to Thinnakara.
The Lakshadweep halwa (locally known as Lakshadweep unda), which according to the islanders helps sailors to sail for long hours without food, is made using coconut jaggery.
They allege that there are some cheap imitations in the market which are made using regular jaggery. PTI KPKHMP VGN SS