No ifs and no buts when you are presented with …you guessed it right…the simple coconut. Are you also nuts about the 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 the coconut. The coconut is one fruit which when put to its best use can be useful in every way right from its leaves to its shell and of course the water and the meaty goodness that it includes which we all love and devour ever so often.
The coconut is native to Asia and was first cultivated in the Pacific region of the world on 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 on encounters by Portuguese and Spanish explorers 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.
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 are involved with 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 flavor to both savory dishes as well as desserts. Indians especially across the length and breadth of the country tend to add coconut to enhance the flavor of their recipes that have been passed down through the ages.
Shredded coconut is great for baking and adds a touch of natural sweetness whiles a sprinkle of raw desiccated coconut adds texture and tropical flavor to curries and kormas. Coconut flour is used in often used in baking as a substitute for wheat flour since it is gluten-free, nut-free, and vegan. And then of course there is the age-old coconut oil to fry your yummy meats, far sans, and gujiyas in. It is also a delicious heat-stable fat that can be used in baking, sautéing or roasting.
Here are some popular Indian dishes which are enhanced thank to the presence of coconut in them:
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 plain homemade fresh curd.
Now, what is a crispy hot dosa, a scrumptious medu vada, or fluffy light idli when not dipped into the rich goodness of coconut chutney before being devoured? However, the use of coconut in chutney is not limited to the South of India. Coconut is used to make a chutney accompaniment even up north when it is mixed in with the raitas or curd and even in the Western and Eastern provinces of India where it is abundantly cultivated.
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.
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!