Fresh Young Coconut
Thai Name: Ma Praw On
Coconuts in Thailand are incredibly fresh, as Thailand is one of the significant Coconut producers in the world. Because of this, Coconut is used extensively in Thai cooking, almost as a replacement for milk, cream or other dairy products.
As well as being used as a raw ingredient, the fresh, young coconuts will often have the shell removed, trimmed down to a manageable size, and then refrigerated whole. It will later be opened, and the Coconut milk will be drunk for refreshment before the soft meat is consumed as a healthy snack.
The Southern regions of Thailand produce almost the entire national crop of Coconuts, and for this reason, local dishes tend to feature it more often than Northern cuisine.
Possibly the most well-known Thai dish, which uses Coconut as a base, is Red Curry (Gaeng Phed). Traditional Thai Red Curry comes served as a kind if thick soup, and is usually made with pork or chicken. Bamboo shoots are also often added, although not every Thai Red Curry is prepared in this way. The sauce is made from a little water, a quantity of Coconut Milk, a little fish sauce and a generous helping of Red Curry Paste.
Another major Thai dish which features Coconut is Tom Ka, which is usually made with chicken (Tom Ka Gai), but can be made with pork or sea food. Tom Ka is very similar to Tom Yum, and the preparation of the two dishes is almost identical. Tom Ka simply has Coconut Milk added to the soup, making it much creamier and slightly thicker in consistency.
Overall, Coconut is a central part of Thai cuisine, and is used in a wide range of dishes, no Thai kitchen would be complete without Coconut, it is intrinsic to the Thai taste.
Fresh produce of Thailand.
What is coconut?
A large hairy, brown nut that grows on the coconut tree, found throughout the world’s tropical islands and countries. The coconut tree is known as the ‘Tree of Life’ given its usefulness: its wood is used for furniture and building, its branches make great thatched roofs, and its nuts for eating and drinking.
Inside the nut is white flesh which is used in both sweet and savoury dishes. The creamy milk commonly used in curry sauces and rice dishes does not actually come from the milky liquid in the centre of the nut, instead of coming from the coconut milk and cream squeezed from the flesh.
If using a whole coconut, strip off the hairy bits, put the coconut into the oven at 180C for 15 mins to shrink the shell, then punch a hole in the soft ‘eyes’ and drain out the liquid. Using a heavy cleaver, carefully crack the coconut into pieces and prise the flesh away from the skin with a small, sharp knife to remove the flesh.
To use the flesh for cooking, shred it with a coarse grater and store it in the fridge for 1-2 days.
Chunks of fresh coconut stay fresh in the fridge for several days if stored in water which is changed daily.
Store desiccated and shredded coconut in an airtight container and keep it in a cool, dry cupboard.