KUALA LUMPUR, April 23 — It’s always a pleasure (and a privilege) to receive a gift. Some gifts require a bit of thought to make full use of them and not waste the giver’s generosity.
One of my friends works at a factory, a family business. There are a few coconut trees in front of his factory and he decided to give me a couple of the coconuts, freshly harvested and still green.
Now I could have just hacked away at the coconut with a parang and drunk the sweet, clear liquid inside as is. After all, coconut water tastes like the most refreshing nectar — here in the tropics where it is fresh and not bottled, anyway — so that seemed to be the most obvious choice.
But my friend knew I had a habit of coming up with Weekend Kitchen experiments whenever time (and ingredients) allowed, so there was just a smidgen of expectation to live up to. He’d have been happy that I enjoyed the coconuts as they were; he’d be delighted, I knew, if I did more with them.
Now these coconuts were really too green to wait for the liquid to slowly transform into more of the coconut flesh. Were the fruits more mature, I could have scooped out the pure white coconut meat, grated and soaked it, and squeezed out some creamy santan (coconut milk). That could have been used in curries and rendang, in making Nyonya kuih or making a smoothie.
Maybe that’s a bit too much work, come to think of it.
So perhaps simply pouring and collecting the coconut water was the simpler way to go. The pantry always provides inspiration. There were some leftover dry chia seeds, still good to use (they last a long time if stored in an airtight container); a can of sea coconut in sweet syrup (I love fresh ingredients but canned foods can be such a lifesaver when you’re too lazy to go to the supermarket); some pandan leaves, still startling green and fragrant. A couple of green limes and we were good to go.
Five ingredients. More than enough to play with and make something that’s hopefully more than the sum of its parts.
How about a non-alcoholic cooler, great for any poolside or beach party? The chia seeds and amber-hued sea coconut segments add some lovely bite; the pandan infuses the drink with its distinct, palm-and-pine-like essence; the limes offer a bright zestiness.
And nothing conjures up the sand and the sea more than the taste of cool coconut water, right?
Bottoms up, everyone!
COCONUT CHIA COOLER
Ideally, you’re looking for young coconuts that are still green outside. These are harvested at about five to six months, and contain the most amount of coconut water. Do be careful when hacking at the top of the coconut as sometimes there’s an unexpected spray when the husk is initially pierced.
Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) originate from Mexico and Guatemala. In Aztec times, warriors purportedly consumed chia seeds for strength and endurance. A single spoonful could last them for an entire day!
Whether this is myth or fact, chia seeds are very nutrient dense: they’re rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, fibre and protein.
2 young (green) coconuts, water only
2-3 pandan leaves, tied into a knot
2 teaspoons chia seeds
½ can sea coconut in syrup
2 limes, juice only
2 pandan leaves, for garnishing
Ice cubes, optional
Collect the fresh coconut water from two young coconuts. Pour into a pan and simmer with the knot of pandan leaves for about 5 minutes, to infuse it with flavour. Remove the pan from the heat and dispose of the pandan knot. Allow the liquid to cool.
Once cool, pour the pandan-infused coconut water into a container and add the chia seeds. Cover tightly and set aside in the fridge for at least two hours; preferably overnight. This will allow the chia seeds to expand in size.
Ladle the sea coconut segments, along with some of their syrup, into two large glasses. Pour the chilled pandan-chia-coconut water and the lime juice over the sea coconut layer. Garnish each glass with a fresh pandan leaf. Top with ice, if desired. Serve immediately.
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