Water, water everywhere
COCONUT milk and grated coconut are ingredients so common in our kitchen that we, of course, take them for granted. Coconut water – drunk straight from the fruit – has a more elevated status. It’s a treat during road trips and on holidays, though I can’t imagine why we did not have it more often since it’s not dreadfully expensive or unavailable.
The best coconut water I’ve had was in Kelantan, where a retired teacher-turnedfarmer was showing us the new hybrid of coconut trees – kelapa pandan – that were short and produced the sweetest coconut water.
He just hacked off the young fruits from the stems (which he could reach) and then deftly cut open the tops with his parang before thrusting them to us. It was the best thirst-quenching drink ever, and so sweet and lemak. But that still wasn’t the best treat of the day.
The best coconut water we had was not fresh from the trees, but from a mound of burning coconut husks on the ground. That visit was over a decade ago, and barbecued coconut had just been introduced locally. The first gulp was divine. These days, you can find barbecued young coconut in supermarkets in Kuala Lumpur, but there is nothing like enjoying one on the east coast beach on a hot afternoon.
Young coconut agar-agar was also intro-introduced around the same time, and I quickly loved it too – especially because I first tasted its cool sweetness at a Thai restaurant in Alor Setar when my lips and mouth were burning from the heat of bird’s eye chillies.
As avid a fan as I am of coconut water, I have never cooked with it. When workers at an Indonesian food stall told me that their grilled chicken was boiled in coconut water, I was, of course, immediately intrigued. It turned out that Ayam Kalasan is a popular Indonesian dish, and there are loads of recipes on the Internet.
The coconut water lends sweetness and depth to the chicken, and this recipe is a keeper. The fried chicken tastes even better with sambal tomat – just be warned that the combination got me going for second and third helpings of rice. n Check out Hungry Caterpillar’s blog hungryc. com for the sambal tomat recipe.
Coconut water, from 1 young coconut 2-3 cloves garlic 2-3 shallots, smashed 5cm young ginger, smashed Daun salam, or substitute with kaffir lime leaves 1 tsp salt 2-3 tbsp palm sugar 1 chicken 2 cups cooking oil Put the coconut water in a big pot with the garlic, shallots, ginger, leaves, salt and palm sugar. Bring to a boil, and then add the chicken. Lower the heat to medium, and leave the mixture to simmer for half an hour or until the chicken is cooked. The liquid would have evaporated, or reduced.
Heat up the cooking oil. Then, remove the chicken and toss it dry. Deep fry the chicken until golden brown and crispy. If your wok is not big enough, cut the chicken into four parts before deep frying it.
Serve piping hot with sambal tomat.