Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Palm Butter Rice Too Sweet!

A palm nut that was being munched on by a free range chicken.

There is a chant we sing in Liberia with the following words, “Palm butter rice too sweet, o yeah!  You eat it, you want some more!”  I think palm butter on rice has to be in the top ten best things to eat in the whole world.  I find it difficult to believe that there are some people who really don’t care for it, but in the world of food I find this old adage to be true:  to each his own.  And to me I’ll take palm butter please!

Palm Butter and chicken over rice

What is palm butter?  It is a sauce sometimes made with chicken or some other meat that is often put over rice.  The sauce itself is made from the nut of the oil palm tree.  The nuts are cut in clusters off of the tree and then the nuts are separated and placed in a hollowed out wooden mortar and pounded with a long wooden pestle.  What is left is this orangish, fatty stuff that comes off the outside of these nuts and it is from this that the thick orange palm butter sauce is made.  I’m not sure exactly how it is made, but I do know how to eat it! 

Mortar and pestle used to pound palm nuts among other things.
Compound #2 area, Grand Bassa County, Liberia
A closer look at some pounded palm nuts

There are many things that can be done with the palm nut.  You can make the butter sauce that is put over rice or Kru-style over boiled cassava.  One treat is to leave the nut whole and boil it in sugar to make what is called ‘sugar palm’.  These little snacks are delicious.  You can also open up these nuts and get at a whitish seed inside that is also good to eat.  The palm oil that is extracted from the outer part of the nuts is a dark reddish color and is great for frying food, especially fish, chicken and monkey. 

Sugar Palm
There are also many other products that are made from this nut including soaps, lotions, candles cooking oil and cleaning products.  There is a great commercial value here as well.  In fact, in 2009, Sime Darby signed a 63-year concession agreement with Liberia for 220,000 hectares of land to be developed into oil palm and rubber plantations. I drove through part of the Sime Darby plantation on the way to Robertsport in 2011 and it is quite a production.  This operation is projected to bring about 35,000 jobs to Liberia.  Now that’s a lot of palm butter!

...You eat it, you want some mor
If you ever get a chance to try some palm butter I recommend it, however the canned stuff over here just doesn't compare to the fresh stuff off the tree.  If you really want to eat palm butter, you have to eat it in Liberia and when you eat it in Liberia, don't be surprised if you spontaneously break out in song, "Palm butter rice too sweet, o yeah!..."


  1. Well said! I love it especially as you said, "fresh off the tree" and you are right, Liberia is the place to eat it!

    Here in Western Australia it is very hard to come by and never fresh but even when you get what's in the can, it's worth celebrating with a song!

    "....you eat it you want some more"!

  2. Awesomely intimate reflection. Thanks for blogging about home sweet home.