Source: Eating Asia
PALM SUGAR was originally made from the sugary sap of the Palmyra palm or the date palm. Now it is also made from the sap of the sago and coconut palm and is also sold as "coconut sugar." It is sold in granulated form, paste, in tubes, blocks or tin cans. It may be light-colored or dark, soft and gooey or hard. As a lightly-processed product of cottage industry, it varies greatly from batch to batch.
GULA MELAKA, which hails from Malaysia, is made by making several slits into the bud of a coconut tree and the sap is then collected. Next, 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 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 differs 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. GULA MELAKA is also the essential ingredient in making another popular dessert/drink, the CENDOL (see my GLOSSARY post and RECIPE on CENDOL).