It’s Foodie Tuesday!
Aah. The coconut. Isn’t it beautiful? So tall and graceful as it sways in the breeze, waving its arms, showing its fruits, beckoning you to receive its bounty. Indeed it can only grow more beautiful when you experience how generous it is with its gifts, and how little it asks in return. It is not only one of the prettiest, most utile, and most versatile of trees, but also one of the most low-maintenance ones.
I could go on and extol the virtues of this most awesome wonder of creation. I could even write a song — but someone already did.
As suggested by the song, every part of the coconut tree is useful, but for now I would just like to focus on delectable edibles from the coconut fruit.
When you hack open a coconut, the first thing that will assail you is coconut water. This is its first bounty, this fresh, mildly sweet liquid. In South and Southeast Asia, where coconuts flourish, you’ll find street vendors peddling coconut water right out of the shell.
Coconut water is a refreshing drink that really quenches your thirst — this is Mother Nature’s sports drink, as many North American and European countries are only just discovering. It has all the electrolytes that help the body rehydrate after sweating it out during exercise, and none of the artificial flavors and preservatives, plus a myriad of other health benefits. Read more about it here.
Coconut water can also be fermented to make wine or vinegar.
Next, the coconut fruit presents to you its flesh. Most Westerners are only familiar with the crunchy version of it. But the meat that the coconut offers up varies depending on how young or how mature the fruit is.
The youngest greenest coconuts practically have no flesh at all. You’ll only manage to scrape a soft, thin, jelly-like layer off its shell. But what little there is is so good!
When it’s at its next stage, the flesh is white, solid and substantial, albeit only about a quarter of an inch thick. It now has a bit of that milky coconut taste but is still tender. This is scraped into strands or cut up into squares to make a variety of desserts — from tropical fruit salads, to pies, puddings, and pastries. A favorite of mine is this young coconut and pandan jelly salad it’s a cinch to make! Just make pandan jelly out of unflavored gelatine, sugar, and pandan flavoring, shred or slice up some young coconut, toss it in some sweetened cream, and chill.
Mature coconut flesh can be shredded finely used to bring flavor and texture to many Asian desserts or pressed to extract rich, flavorful coconut milk.
This is wonderful in soups, stews, and curries, as it imparts its exotic brand of creaminess and imparts a mild natural sweetness to these dishes, providing a subtle contrast to their savoriness.
Steamy Kitchen has a whole slew of yummy coconut milk based dishes, among them this beautiful Indian fish curry. The recipe is practically foolproof — the ingredients are easy enough to find, the procedures is very descriptive, and has lots of great photos!
Feel like a noodle dish? Laksa, a Malaysian dish of multi-cultural origins, is a treasure trove of Asian flavors held together by a creamy coconut soup base.
and when it’s sweet, it is heavenly. It is used as an ingredient in a lot of desserts in Southeast Asia, such as the Filipino dessert called maja blanca (Spanish translation: white belle), a pudding made from coconut milk, sugar, and sweet corn kernels.
That’s about it for the coconut fruit. But didn’t I mention that every single part of the coconut tree has a whole bunch of different uses? We’re nowhere near halfway done on this subject! But I’ll save the rest for another post.