In "A Tast of India," Madhur Jaffrey writes of paani. She describes it as "Kerala's nectar and its best kept secret. It is the maple syrup of the south-west, the honey made without any assistance from bees, by boiling down tapped toddy until it is a thick, irresistible, golden syrup."
In "Lord Krishna's Cuisine," Yamuna Devi writes of West Bengal's tal gur. She too compares this sweetener to maple syrup and notes that "much of the high quality gur made in India . . . remains in the villages where it is made."
Toddy and gur are made from the sap of coconut and palmyra palms. I would like advice about where to find paani and gur, whether by mail order or in the Los Angeles area.