What is Thai Coconut?
The term “Thai coconut” can refer both to a coconut grown in Thailand, and to a young coconut. Some people call young coconuts “Thai coconuts,” referencing the fact that young coconuts are very popular in Thai cuisine and readily available in Thai markets. In fact, a Thai coconut is no different from any other coconut, young or old, and like other coconuts, it can be used in a variety of ways.
In the sense of a young, green or tender coconut, a Thai coconut is a coconut which has been harvested before it is fully mature. Thai coconuts have thinner husks, making them easier to handle and cut into, and their interiors are filled with coconut water and a gelatinous meat. The coconut water can be drunk straight or seasoned in a variety of ways, while the meat may be eaten as a snack.
Whole Thai coconuts are available in some stores. Often, the outer layers of the husk are removed, exposing a white to cream layer of fibrous material, and making the coconut easier to ship. Naturally, young coconuts have green husks mottled with brown. Some stores open their coconuts for their customers, sealing them in plastic wrap to prevent the escape of the liquid inside, while in other regions, consumers may need to open the coconut on their own, using a sharp knife to create an opening in the top of the coconut.
There are several approaches to opening a Thai coconut. Some people like to punch a hole in the coconut, drinking the juice with a straw or pouring it out into a container. A lid can also be created by making a large circular cut and lifting away the top of the coconut, or the coconut can be cracked in half with a cleaver over the bowl to catch the juice and make the tender meat of the Thai coconut more accessible.
Coconuts are a critical part of Thai cuisine. Coconut milk, a product made by grating coconut meat and mixing it with water, is a cornerstone of Thai soups and curries. It is also used in Thai desserts and drinks. Being in the tropics, Thailand is a great environment for growing coconuts, and coconuts are readily available in many Thai villages and markets. Growers in Thailand sometimes use trained monkeys to harvest their coconuts, teaching the monkeys to gather the coconuts and throw them to the ground for their handlers.
I purchase only organic young Thai coconuts which are usually pretty hard to find in the U.S. and Canadian supermarkets. If you do happen to stumble on one, buy it. You'll be amazed at how much more flavorful they are.
These little coconuts have a long way to travel from Thailand with an estimated delivery time of four to six weeks. To keep them from spoilage they have to be dipped in preservatives just like a lot of other fruits and vegetables you find in the market today, making them non-organic.
However there are a few companies that will deliver pure organic Thai coconuts within two to four days. I think one of them is located in California. I can't remember the name of it right now, but you can find them on the Internet.
@ladyjane - There have been so many variations to Thai coconut soup but that sounds pretty close to the traditional Tom Kha Gai.
One of my favorite soup recipes uses Thai coconut milk, curry powder and shrimp. I also add sliced mushrooms, lime juice and about a fourth cup of brown sugar.
It's a bit spicier than most Thai coconut milk soups, so I wouldn't advise feeding it to the children.
I remember a friend telling me that she gives her children Thai coconut chicken soup as a cure for the common cold and flu virus and they love it.
I haven't tried it yet myself but apparently it has many medicinal qualities as well as it tastes great. Here are the directions:
Bring one quart of chicken broth to a boil then add one and one half cup of coconut milk, one fourth teaspoon of chile flakes, juice of one lemon, one teaspoon of fresh grated ginger and an optional one or two cups of cubed chicken.
Season with sea salt and allow soup to simmer for about fifteen minutes then pour into bowls and garnish with green onions and cilantro.
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