Let me show you how coconuts can make the ordinary extraordinary.
I was born and bred in the Philippines, a tropical country lavished by endless summers, sand, and sea.
I love living here because it does not take much to be happy when you always have the sun on your side. Even if you are having a tough time, a smile is never far away, the perfect weather being the instigator. Even if I live in the city, I still get my Vitamin D fix and a steady supply of our own “fruit of the gods.”
Coconut palm trees thrive in sandy soil, in tropical areas with high humidity and high precipitation. They cannot tolerate cold weather. This has tremendous benefits for the Philippines, which is the second-largest producer of coconuts in the world and where every part of the tree is used for both culinary and non-culinary purposes.
In these parts, one coconut can take you to a surprising culinary adventure. Here’s how:
- Order a fresh coconut at a local restaurant or a sidewalk vendor. This costs around $0.50 here (but around $4 at Whole Foods — wow)
- Drink the fresh coconut juice slowly, OR
- Transfer the juice to your water bottle then chill (It is a drink best served cold), OR
- Buy VitaCoco from the supermarket
Then feel yourself heal as electrolytes and antioxidants make their way through your body.
Coconut water is known for its superior health benefits. It is loaded with potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, amino acids and electrolytes. It is a quick way to hydrate and recover lost nutrients and is a worthy substitute for sports drinks after an intense workout.
The coconut meat is the white edible fruit that lines the shell. You can scrape that off to eat.
But the meat is more fun and useful in cooking than just eating it directly. Here’s how:
- Scrape off the coconut meat from the shell using a spoon
- Slice the meat and add to a chicken dish like Chicken Binakol
- Grate the scraped off coconut meat using a food processor
- Toast the grated coconut meat and turn them into sweetened coconut flakes you can use to garnish cakes or ice cream
- Extract milk from the grated coconut meat
- Use it to make vegan Indian or Thai dishes or this delightful Spicy Coconut Mussels With Lemongrass by Melissa Clark
Coconut milk is essential for vegan cooking because it has a thicker base than soy or almond milk. Coconut milk also helps an Asian dish that has ginger and cilantro stand out. While the canned coconut milk passes muster, I recommend that you use freshly squeezed coconut milk which you can make at home. It tastes much better.
Non-vegans have a variety of options since coconut milk is a staple in many vegetable and meat-based Asian dishes. In the Philippines, coconut milk is mixed with taro or green beans, and a slew of pork dishes.
If you are interested to learn more about coconut-based Filipino dishes from a non-chef who cooks like an amateur but is a pro at eating, sign up on my website here.