What is Coconut Meat?
Coconut meat is the flesh of the coconut fruit, a tropical fruit produced by the coconut tree. There are a number of uses for the meat, along with other parts of the coconut. Some grocers sell fresh coconuts that can be cracked open for their meat, and it can also be purchased in canned and dried form. Some Southeast Asian dishes call for this coconut product, and it appears in some Western-style dishes as well.
There are two types of coconut meat. Young or “green” coconuts have very soft meat that is almost gelatinous in texture, and it is soft enough to easily scoop out of the fruit with a spoon. This type is sometimes called coconut jelly, and it is classically served as a snack. Mature coconuts have firmer white meat that tends to cling more stubbornly to the inside of the shell, making it more challenging to remove.
People can eat the meat plain, or they can grate it and use it in a range of dishes. To make coconut milk, the meat is grated, mixed with boiling water, and strained through cheesecloth or fine mesh. Grated and toasted coconut is often used as a garnish, and shavings may included as decoration on desserts like coconut cream pie, puddings, and cakes. Shredded coconut is also a key ingredient in German chocolate cake. The meat has a distinctive rich, tropical flavor, which some people find very appealing.
For cooks who have a fresh coconut to work with, getting the meat out can be a bit of an adventure. There are a number of theories about the best way to crack a coconut in order to access the meat. One of the more effective techniques involves holding the coconut over a large bowl, and beating the center of the fruit with the blunt side of a cleaver while rotating the fruit so that the entire circumference is targeted, eventually causing the fruit to crack with the strain. Once the coconut water has drained out, the halved coconut can be baked in the oven at 400°F (204°C) for 30 minutes to loosen the meat.
Dried and canned coconut meat is easier to handle, and easier to find in areas where coconuts do not grow naturally. The shelf stability of these forms is also appealing to cooks who only want to use a small amount at a time.
What causes fresh coconut meat that is dried to taste chemical or soapy? I used a fresh coconut, made my milk and dried the meat for future recipes. The meat however, now has the flavor mentioned above. Why? Can it be removed by soaking and drying again? Can the meat be saved? I used it in a recipe and unfortunately, got the unsavory flavor in my dessert. What went wrong? The milk was fine in my cooking.
Something I want to mention about coconut is that it is high in saturated fat. My husband has a lot of coconut milk and likes dishes made with coconut oil. His last checkup showed high cholesterol levels. The doctor asked him to cut down on a list of foods like egg yolk, oil, butter and meat. Coconut is also on the list.
I use fresh coconut milk to make mutton biryani (rice with mutton). I cook the meat first separately, then I cook fennel seeds, bay leaves, chillies and onions in oil and add the mutton to it. Finally I add the rice and coconut milk and leave it to cook. It's my favorite dish.
You can buy coconut milk but fresh milk from organic coconuts is much better. Make holes in the coconut first and drain out the water and then crack it open. Some people use instruments. I just hit it very hard on a clean stone or ground. I remove the coconut meat and cut it into pieces and put it in the blender with hot water. I put 3 cups hot water for the entire coconut meat. You can adjust the water to make it thicker or thinner. Final step is to strain the milk out using a cheesecloth.
Also, I always taste the coconut before I do anything with it. It might be spoiled and it will ruin the entire dish.
In Asia, they say that the coconut tree has a thousand uses. In my childhood, I thought that coconuts are only used to make desserts. Was I wrong! In college, I discovered global cuisines and tasted coconut in their dishes, drank coconut water for the first time and tried cooking with coconut milk.
Then, as I searched for some home remedies for healthier hair, I discovered coconut oil, that I have been using since. I witnessed ceremonies where coconuts were offered to deities in Hindu temples. I watched people break a coconut for good luck and protection as they started a new task in films.
Just when I thought I knew all about the coconut, I read that coconut meat is also used to make shampoo, soap, detergents, candles, even fuel and dynamite. It really has so many uses, I am just fascinated that a single plant can do so many things.
I love adding dried coconut meat to cookies and other baked goods, because it gives them a sweet and rich taste. I also like putting it in pasta and salads occasionally. It just adds this nice bit of decadence to foods, and makes them seem just a little tropical.
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