No ifs and no buts when you are presented with…you guessed it right…the simple coconut. Are you nuts about coconut? Can you never get enough of it? Love it in your food or as the food itself? Then this article is perfect for you as we take you on a culinary journey explaining all about coconut. Coconut is one fruit which when put to its best use can be useful in every way. From its leaves to its shell and of course, the water and the meaty goodness; coconut is the best there is!
The Origin of Coconut
Coconut is native to Asia and was first cultivated in the Pacific region on the islands in Southeast Asia including the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and perhaps the continent as well. Closer to home in the Indian Ocean, the likely area of cultivation was perhaps the southern periphery of India, including Sri Lanka and the Maldives. However, it may have been first discovered way back in the year 1521 by Portuguese and Spanish explorers on their encounter with Pacific islanders. In the west, the coconut was originally referred to as Nux Indica, a name used by Marco Polo in 1280 while in Sumatra on the coast of Java (now Indonesia).
Nutrients (Important Nutrients Found in Coconut)
The best part about coconut is how useful it can be for human consumption. It can be used for its water, its flesh, its milk, oil, and in different forms when cooking. Unlike most other fruits that are otherwise high in carbs, coconuts mostly provide the body with good fats. They are also high in protein content, several important minerals, and small amounts of B vitamins.
The minerals found in coconuts help enhance several bodily functions. Coconuts have an especially high manganese content, which is considered to be essential for superior bone health and the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and cholesterol. Coconuts are also rich sources of copper and iron, both of which help the body generate red blood cells as well as an important antioxidant known as selenium which is a cell protector.
How to Include Coconuts in Your Diet?
Coconut in any form tends to add a unique flavour to both savoury dishes as well as desserts. Indians especially tend to add coconut to enhance the flavour of their recipes that have been passed down through ages.
Shredded coconut is great for baking and adds a touch of natural sweetness, while a sprinkle of raw desiccated coconut adds texture and tropical flavour to curries and kormas.
Coconut flour is often used in baking as a substitute to wheat flour since it is gluten-free, nut-free, and vegan. Then there is the age-old coconut oil to fry your yummy meats, farsan, and gujiyas. It is also a delicious heat-stable fat that can be used in baking, sautéing or roasting.
Popular Indian Dishes That Use Coconuts
1. Coconut Rice
A staple in South India, coconut rice is an omnipresent fixture everywhere you go. Down south, coconut rice is a favorite and is made during festivals like Pongal and Navratri. Some of the naivedyam or prasad served in South Indian temples include coconut rice. This dish tastes best with freshly grated coconut. You can serve coconut rice as it is or pair it with gravies or curries, veg stew, or even with plain homemade fresh curd.
2. Coconut Chutney
The rich goodness of coconut chutney helps enhance the taste of crispy hot dosa, scrumptious medu vada, and fluffy light idli. However, the use of coconut in chutney is not limited to South India. Coconut is also used to make chutney in the north or to mix in raita or curd. Coconuts are even used in the western and eastern provinces of India where it is abundantly cultivated.
Have them piping hot and fresh or cool them down for the coconut flavour to kick in. They are just as delicious.
Here are a few other coconut recipes that you can try:
3. Coconut Milk Rasam
Coconut milk rasam is almost like a palate cleanser or a hot soup that is made using thick coconut milk, tamarind pulp, rasam powder, and spices. There are many varieties of rasam made in South Indian cuisine. Coconut milk rasam is one such delicious variety that can be had on its own or as a thick broth mixed with rice.
4. Vegetable Coconut Stew
This deliciously lip-smacking coconut vegetable stew is easy to make and mildly spiced for a refined palate. It is a delicate and aromatic korma made using fresh mixed vegetables, coconut milk, and heaps of lightly flavored spices. A staple in God’s own country Kerela and is eaten usually with heaps of freshly made crispy appams.
5. Bhindi Nariyal Bhaji
This combination of Okra and Coconut is a very simple recipe made with minimal ingredients. The fresh coconut brings a lot of flavor and taste to this dish. You can have it with Indian flatbreads likes chapati, paratha or bhakri, and even bread. It can also be served as a side vegetable dish with dal-rice or sambar-rice.
6. Poricha kuzhambu
Another South Indian favorite and a masterpiece in its own right, poricha kuzhambu is a healthy and delicious mix of veggie-based lentil gravy made with coconut and spice paste. The lentils used usually are tuvar dal though even moong lentils can be used.
7. Moong dal payasam
Moving on to something sweet now, it’s time for coconut-based desserts, and what better dessert than the ever-popular payasam in South India or Kheer in North India. This is a thick, sweet, and rich consistency of broth using coconut milk and jaggery as its two key ingredients to add flavor to the substance that the moong daal brings.
8. Khoya coconut ladoo
A quick, easy, and delicious ladoo recipe made with fresh coconut, ghee, sugar, and khoya. Coconut ladoos tend to just melt in your mouth making them one of the most addictive desserts that one could hope to find across homes in India. Have them piping hot and fresh or cool them down for the coconut flavor to kick in. They are just as delicious.
So this is all you need to know about your favorite coconut. It is healthy, nutritious, self-sufficient, and divine both in and as food. What are you waiting for? On your way to your local Nariyal Pani wala now!