Amazing Coconut Palms (Part 1) Rss feed Twitter button Facebook button

I have a Pina Colada, please. Have you ever ordered it or heard your friend do? Many people living in the West might know coconuts only as an ingredient in this popular cocktail.

Coconut milk and the whole coconut palm, from the shoots down to its roots, can be used.

If you're new to coconuts and would like to learn more about this useful plant, join me in a fascinating discovery...

Coconut Palm

If you don't know what coconut palms look like, take a look at the logo in the upper left corner. Just to see the plant, especially in cold winter months, can be food for your eyes! The plant has graceful forms and an exotic look. It acts as a chick beach umbrella when you hang out on the beach. If you want to get away from it all, it's soothing to look at the coconut leaves blowing in the wind.
Enjoy coconut juice on the beach in Thailand
The long tiny leaves create a rippling sound when hitting each other in the gentle breeze.

Coconut palms are widely grown in the Southern part of Thailand. No matter where it is grown, it serves our basic needs such as - food, shelter and even medication.

Talking about food, what can you eat from this funny-looking palm? The parts that are edible include the flowers, fruits and young shoots.

Coconut Flowers

Coconut flowers are like the palm. They're huge, about the size of a baseball bat. We don't actually eat the flower itself, but get sweet juice out of it through a step-by-step process.

This natural drink is called nam taan sod. It's a refreshing drink to enjoy with crushed ice on a hot summer day.

Palm sugar is produced from this drink. This natural sweetener either comes in sticky paste or in a hardened form. It's widely used in Thai desserts based on coconut milk. Other than that, palm sugar is added to Thai soups and rich sauces.

Coconut Shoots

Other edible parts of the coconut palm are the shoots. A coconut shoot can be found at the very top of the palm and it's made up of many young coconut leaves that are still white and tender. This shoot or yood mapraow is quite similar to a bamboo shoot, but bigger, sweeter and more tender. A coconut shoot can weigh up to 3 kilos. We usually slice and put the shoots in soups or stir fry them with shrimp and other vegetables.

Coconut Fruit

Let's talk about the coconut which is the fruit, although it might not look like one. A coconut is a round hard-skin fruit with a diameter of 6–12 inches and weighs 1-3 kg.
Young and ripe coconuts in Thailand
A coconut protects its meat and juice extremely well. The inner shell is thin and hard while the somewhat soft outer shell is thick and full of fiber.

Coconut Juice

Coconut juice is a classic welcome drink at beach resorts round Thailand. Other than drinking it straight, coconut juice can be made into coconut jelly, coconut vinegar and be added in certain dishes.

Coconut juice is also a fantastic medicine. It's a natural remedy for diarrhea. At the same time, it probably is the cheapest detoxifying food around. Make sure to get the most nutrients out of it by drinking the juice within half an hour after opening the coconut and at least one hour before eating other foods.

Young Coconut Shell And Meat

When the coconut is really young, its' inner shell is still soft. Southern Thais put the soft and crispy tissue of this part soft shell in a unique curry.

Soft young coconut meat has similar texture as peach. It's added to certain desserts such as tapioca pudding and jelly. It can also be preserved as finger food.

Ripe Coconut Meat

Fresh ripe coconut meat is a common snack in Italy and other countries. However, Thailand is one exception. When the coconut ripens, we normally don't eat it raw. The ripe coconut meat is mainly used to make coconut milk and coconut oil. Today, however, the ripe meat has become a popular coconut chips for export when it is finely sliced and dehydrated.

Coconut Milk

Strangely enough, we don't drink coconut milk the way we consume milk or soy milk. Instead, we add the coconut milk in food and desserts to give it a rich flavor. The coconut milk can also be used as curry soup base or as an ingredient in Thai cooking.

Making Coconut Milk

Have you ever wondered how to make coconut milk from coconut meat? Few households today make their own coconut milk. It's quite a process...

First we need to remove the inch-thick outer shell of the fruit with a heavy knife. Then, we have to crack the inner shell by smacking a heavy knife in the middle of the giant nut. A professional coconut cracker would break the shell into two even halves, just like a tomato that has been cut into two halves with a really sharp knife.
Traditional Thai coconut scraper and coconut milk in Thailand

The next step is scraping the meat out using a traditional coconut scraping tool with sharp teeth. After putting the finely shredded white meat in a bowl. We add some hot water and squeeze the meat until the water becomes a thick white liquid. The drained liquid is rich coconut milk called hua gati. This coconut milk is used as coconut milk puree on certain desserts, on boiled vegetables or is used in curry dishes.

After that, we add plenty of warm water to the same lot of coconut meat. This time we will get a much lighter coconut milk called hang gati, which is a lower grade coconut milk. It's used to add volume to curry soups and Thai desserts.

Coconut milk is a main ingredient in the Thai cuisine and as you already know, food forms an important part of Thai life. Really smart people in Thailand are called hua gati, which also means coconut cream.

Here's the link to Amazing Coconut Palms (Part 2)...

Suggested Reading:   Thai Sticky Rice   Fruit Buying Tips

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