In Thai cuisine, palm and "coconut sugar" (nahm dtahn bpeep/buk and nahm dtahn maprao) are used interchangeably. However, it may be an important distinction that "coconut sugar" is not derived from the coconut fruit itself. "Although the names are used interchangeably, palm sugar and coconut sugar are not the same. One comes from the palmyra or sugar palm and the other from coconut palm, but both are produced from the sweet, watery sap that drips from cut flower buds." Kasma Loha-unchit, Exploring Thai Food & Culture: Palm & Coconut Sugar
In Indonesia, sugar made from the Borassus (Palmyra palm) is known as Gula Jawa ("Javanese sugar") or gula merah (red sugar).
Gula melaka is made by making several slits into the bud of a coconut tree and collecting the sap. Then, the sap is boiled until it thickens after which, in the traditional way, it is poured into bamboo tubes between 3-5 inches in length, and left to solidify to form cylindrical cake blocks. Alternatively it can be poured into glass jars or plastic bags. Gula melaka is used in some savory dishes but mainly in the local desserts and cakes of the Southeast Asian region. Gula Melaka Sago pudding, shown in the picture, is one of many desserts made with gula melaka. It is among some of the more popular gastronomic delights of Peranakan (Chinese-Malay) origin. This dish consists of a bland sago pudding served with gula melaka syrup. In some ways it resembles the international Creme Caramel and differ only in the ingredients used. It can be served either cold or hot. To enrich the pudding, coconut milk or 'santan' its Malay name, is added. Santan is the South-East Asian non-dairy counterpart of the dairy cream, the latter either whipped or in liquid form, is used mainly in Western cuisines but both add richness or provide viscosity when these are required.
Bangladeshi's have two varieties of Palmyra sugar. One is unrefined and is in the form of hard blocks of dark brown sugar. This known as Karuppatti. This is used as a sweetener for making certain types of cakes and biscuits. The other is refined and is available as granules of crystalline sugar. This is known as Panam KaRkaNdu. This has medicinal value. It has the power to liquefy phlegm from the lungs. It is also profusely used in treatment of sore throat when dissolved in boiled concentrated milk. Musicians use it on a regular basis in combination with other medicinal spices and herbs.
Palm sugar is often used to sweeten savory food to balance out the salty flavor of fish. Its primary use in Thai cuisine is in sweets and desserts, and somewhat less often in curries and sauces.