Thursday, November 3, 2016

Coconut 101: A Tutorial

You guys, this is a young coconut.

It may not look young, but it is.

I bought one of these at my local Asian supermarket over the weekend. It was intriguing, and it was 50 cents cheaper than the standard bowling ball-looking specimen.

As seen on "The Flintstones."
Right off the bat, I admit that I didn't know what a "young coconut" was. I made a fundamentally incorrect assumption: that what I had purchased was a standard coconut from which the hard, hairy shell had been removed, leaving me with nothing to do but drain the heavenly coconut juice for future use and then process the delicious coconut meat.

Vegans, juicers, and foodies are tittering right now.

Hipster foodie vegan juicer ROFL.
It didn't take long for Drummer Boy to set me straight. He lived in Florida for many years and therefore knows a few things about coconuts. I'm not sure how that works - maybe to get a Florida driver's license you have to demonstrate at least intermediate-level knowledge of coconuts? I don't know.

But he took a look at my conehead coconut and broke the bad news: The small, brown, three-holed fruit of my dreams was actually ensconced inside the husk I had purchased. Only the very outer shell had been removed. It fell to me to extract the actual coconut from this shrink-wrapped conical spheroid before me.

It's like this, Drunkards:


No wonder they say these bastards kill 150 people a year. These fuckers in their natural state are more than a foot wide and weigh more than three pounds on average. If you're standing beneath a coconut palm tree and one falls on your head, you may sustain a blow equal to 2,000 pounds of force, or roughly 3.2 Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks to the skull.

Or not. But do you think I'm going to pass up a chance
to post this picture? Paff.

You literally have to burrow into a coconut to uncover the cute, innocuous fruit we learned to love by watching "Gilligan's Island." And so, determined not to have wasted two dollars because I'm a goddamn single mother, DB and I proceeded to remove the husk of the coconut.

As it turns out, the proper way to decapitate one of these things is to slice horizontally across the cone-part, low enough to remove the pointy-bit AND the coconut crown simultaneously.

Totally not labeled anywhere.

Ya know, sometimes you just have to own the fact that you're a sheltered white American omnivore and say, "WTF NOBODY TOLD ME THAT."

DB and I did not follow young coconut protocol. Instead we ruined a couple of my best kitchen knives painstakingly hacking away the thick husk until we finally revealed the small brown coco shell. At which point we had no freaking idea what to do, so we stopped and watched the Dallas Cowboys take down the Philadelphia Eagles in a nailbiter instead.

But a couple of nights later, with Precocious Daughter at her boyfriend's house and me on my own, I became determined to finish the job of discovering my inner coconut.

I had this before me, more or less (not my picture).

Only messier and whatnot.

The three coconut eyes were mostly showing. With my largest flat-head screwdriver, I punched holes in two of them. Just like when I was little and opened the can of Hawaiian Punch by poking a big hole in one side and a little hole in the other. Right?

You all totally remember when Hawaiian Punch
came in a big can, right? I'm not old, right?
Anyway, having finally accessed the inner workings of the coconut, I poured out a surprisingly generous quantity of coconut juice. Like, 8-12 ounces, somewhere in there. Way more than I thought one smallish coconut would hold.

Then I looked at the coconut meat inside the shell. This was the biggest surprise of the night.

Typically, when you think of coconut meat, you picture an inch-think slab of fibrous white material, ready to be scooped out and shredded into Mounds bars, correct?


Well, when you're face to face with a young Thai coconut, that's not exactly the case.

The "meat" of a young coconut consists of about one-quarter inch of soft, gelatinous white flesh that spoons away from the shell like scrambled eggs from a non-stick pan.

Except not as goddamn disgusting. Eggs, eww.

Anyway, I scooped out the ridiculously squishy and glistening coconut flesh, combined it with the juice I'd drained, and simmered the mixture in a saucepan. My hope was that the too too solid flesh would melt (Shakespeare reference, yo) and create a kind of coconut...ragout? Paste? Delightful goo?

Whatever I thought might happen didn't happen. So I decided to apply my immersion blender in hopes of emulsifying the coconut constituents into a creamy, happy whole. This seemed like a solid plan.

Immersion blender tip: If you decide to pour the contents of, like, a saucepan into the vertical plastic cup that comes with your immersion blender, you should be aware that agitating those contents (i.e., using an up and down motion) can create a bit of a vacuum. Said vacuum can be broken safely and effectively. Or you can do it the way I did it and cause a very messy overflow of the contents onto surrounding surfaces.


You guys: Hot coconut juice mixed with half-processed coconut flesh looks and feels remarkably like vomit. Now imagine it all over your countertops and dripping down the front of the stove.

Yes, ma'am.

So. I poured the remainder of the semi-adequately mixed coconut milk and flesh into a plastic container and stashed it in the fridge. I will attempt to use it as a base for an amazing soup or stir-fry or smoothie or some goddamn thing.

It may be a disaster.

Or it may turn out awesome. If anybody has any recipe ideas, I'm sooooo open.

Bottom line: There is a straightforward and fairly easy way to process a young Thai coconut. I learned that the hard way. But I still totally recommend you get one, using my experience to not screw yours up.

If you can avoid hot coconut vomit, you're probably doing it right.

1 comment:

  1. I want to know how you remove the pointy bit and crown simultaneously. That part eluded me the last time I tried to open a coconut. That was almost twenty-five years ago.
    More recently I heard that Keith Richards fell out of a coconut tree. He was unharmed which shouldn't come as any surprise. At this point Richards is pretty much indestructible.


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