The sweet taste, unique aroma, and freshness of Nira water, with its innate characteristic freshness, extracted from palm trees, is popular among those breaking their fast in Lhokseumawe, Aceh; Padang, West Sumatra; and other regions.
Palm trees, growing wild and profusely in the mountainous region of Lhokseumawe, have become a wealth of sorts for the community, particularly during the month of Ramadan, since apart from the water being used as raw materials for brown sugar, the kaling-kaling seeds are also taken.
During the month of Ramadan, several juice traders at the corner of Lhokseumawe City sell several Ramadan culinary snacks, including the juice in bottled form. The juice is filled in several dozen bottles, placed in a basket, and then carried on a motorcycle saddle for sale to consumers.
A similar practice is followed in Padang, whereas villagers from the adjoining areas of the city bring this Nira water for sale. The fasting month is the peak season for them to sell Nira water.
Syahrial, 32, one of the Nira water vendors from the Lubuk buayo area of Padang, operates from the local market on Saturday. He recalls that the demand for water derived from the sap of palm tree species increases in the month of Ramadan than regular days, as the water from the palm tree is one of the drinks of choice to break the fast.
During the month of Ramadhan, Nira is featured among several salads than regular days outside the month of Ramadan, since this beverage is also among the popular drinks, as it is derived straight from trees, he pointed out.
Owing to the soaring demand in the month of Ramadan, in just a day, the nira water trader sells nearly 10 to 12 jerricans of five liters of water every evening. The sold juice is filled in mineral water bottles, thereby making it easier and portable for consumers to carry home. The large bottles are priced at Rp10 thousand per container, whereas a medium-sized bottle of 600ml capacity is priced at Rp5,000 each.
"If on a typical day, it is not as busy as expected, I will carry back quite a lot," Samsul noted.
Samsul, a resident of Paloh Batee, Muara Dua Sub-district, Lhokseumawe City, claimed that the Nira water he sold was extracted from the sap of the tree in his garden. He resides in a hilly area where there are abundance of palm trees whose sap is used.
He stated that the water was still fresh, as he had recently extracted it from his own garden, adding that he collected the juice on a daily basis and sold it to the market during this month of Ramadan.
The residents also spoke about the process of extracting the juice of the sap. Samsul spoke of how the sap water was obtained through the sap fruit bunches that had been cut, and bamboo containers, known in Acehnese language as Pacok Trieng, were hung at the end for collecting the droplets of sap.
Trieng was hung in the afternoon, and the next day, it was taken and filled with water from the sap, Samsul noted.
He added that once the nira water was poured into another container, the Trieng was smoked and then placed back on the stem midrib to again collect the water.
When Trieng Pacok is installed in the afternoon, the water will be taken again in the morning and be ready for selling in the market, the nira water trader explained.
Nira water consumption offers multifarious benefits, as apart from its refreshing taste and natural sweetness, it has medicinal properties and cleanses the kidneys.
Muhammad Syukri, 50, one of the residents, who regularly drinks Nira water, too vouches for its benefits, and it comes as no surprise that he has been a regular consumer of this juice of the sap during the month of Ramadan.
He admitted to often consuming nira water, not only in the fasting month but also during the other times, as it offers medicinal benefits and cleanses the kidneys.
The same view was also echoed by Yusri, one of the consumers, who noted that consuming nira water during the month of Ramadan had its own distinctive taste apart from freshness.
The residents of Lhokseumawe have affirmed that apart from being refreshing, the juice of the sap consumed while breaking the fast also helps in treating colds, aches, and fatigue in the body.
Apart from proffering a feel-good effect, the intake of this juice can also treats colds and aches, the resident stated.
The seller of Nira water admits that on days when his stock of juice is not sold out, he brings it back home to be cooked into a sweetmeat ingredient, which is akin to melted brown sugar, thick red and sticky.
"If it is not sold out, I take it home and cook it into sweets," Samsul stated while concluding the conversation.
EDITED BY INE