Water, water ev­ery­where

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - TASTE - By HUN­GRY CATER­PIL­LAR

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.

Ayam Kalasan

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.

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