Issue 03: Coconut

by thomandaimee

Coconut is ever so present in Asian cooking. It is an essential ingredient used in our curries, nasi lemak (coconut rice), chendol, kaya (coconut jam), etc. In fact, there is not one time coconut milk is not in our house.

When we were younger, Mom would bring us to the wet market to get fresh desiccated coconut from the Indian auntie. I remembered being fascinated by the myriad of smells: pungent fragrances from the hung flower garlands, the scent of coconut shavings and distant aroma of ikan bilis (preserved anchovies) from the dry store next door. For us, it only meant there would be chicken curry brewing in a big pot for dinner that night.

The wonders of this fruit are endless; there are so many ways to make use of what it can offer. The white coconut meat can be eaten raw, grated or made into coconut milk and cream. It reminds me of milk and how it can be turned into yoghurt, butter and cheese. Another would be the water that can be made into coconut vinegar or even Arrack, an alcoholic drink. The uses of the coconut or even the tree itself are endless.

What we have done here is to incorporate this familiar ingredient into desserts that are not Asian in nature. Being overconfident, we did try making William Curley’s Coconut Chocolate Bars. Alas, our humid weather did not give us the results we wanted. (Hence we are not going to post our failed batch.)

To be honest, as much as it sounded as a good idea at the beginning, we still love our coconut in desserts we are accustomed to. Like the Khanom Tako Sai (Thai Coconut Pudding), it is a dual jewel of coconut and corn wrapped in a banana leaf. Or the Kueh Salat (Glutinous Rice Cake topped with Coconut Jam Pudding). Perhaps another time, when we are much more adventurous…

(Being Asian, Asian cooking is strangely one of the most difficult cuisines to master. Anyone kind enough to direct us to cookbooks or websites that do amazing Asian desserts?)