Feeding The Nation
Coconut: A Versatile Fruit, Nut and Seed
Delicious and nutritious, this tropical fruit is versatile every which way.
Words by Vikaria Lestari
The freshness of coconut water cools my throat as I sip my drink on a beach. Associated with the tropics since time immemorial, coconut is the ultimate flavour to satisfy a thirst on a hot day.
Bali is widely known for its beautiful white-sand beaches. It’s easy to imagine relaxing on the sand while enjoying a glass of es kuwut (iced coconut), a popular local speciality. The ubiquitous drink is made of coconut water and fruit, granulated sugar, honeydew melon, holy basil seeds, key lime juice, and honeydew syrup. The ingredients are combined and topped with ice cubes. It will definitely make your day!
Es tambring, another coconut drink from Bali, is made of egg whites, tamarind, and granulated sugar boiled together. Coconut water, shaved coconut fruit, and ice cubes are then added. While coconut water can be drunk alone or made into a smoothie, coconut milk, cooked with pandanus leaves and a pinch of salt, is often used as a sauce or extra flavour for many of Indonesia’s traditional drinks and desserts, such as Banjarnegara’s popular es dawet (a sweet iced drink), Medan’s es campur (a fruit and milk treat), Madura’s es bubur sumsum (rice pudding), Makassar’s es palu butung (banana with ice and pandanus syrup), and many more. With its balmy climate and an abundance of coconut palms 2Indonesia creatively offers coconut-based beverages and desserts that are different in each region.
However, Indonesian coconut-based drinks are not always served cold. Sarabba, a delicacy of Makassar, South Sulawesi, is served hot to warm up the body and improve stamina. The coconut milk is blended with egg yolk, ginger, palm sugar, and pepper. Spicy hot and sweet, it’s marvellous to enjoy at night. The sarabba is similar to a popular West Javanese traditional drink called bajigur. Blending coconut milk with coffee, salt, and palm sugar, bajigur is presented piping hot. The Sundanese speciality drink is normally enjoyed with steamed cassava or sweet potato. Today, these drinks are also available in instant versions, packaged for convenient use.
Freshly Grated Coconut
Freshly grated coconut is often used as a topping or filling in many traditional Indonesian cakes to add flavour. Mostly found in Java, these coconut-topped cakes include klepon (glutinous rice ball cake), getuk lindri (coconut cassava cake), brightly coloured cenil (a chewy cake made of starch flour and cassava), putu ayu (steamed coconut cupcake), and many more. You must also try a Javanese dadar gulung (Indonesian coconut pancake) for the combination of a caramel and grated-coconut filling with the savoury pancake wrap.
Fresh coconut can also be added into rice flour before grilling to create the popular savoury kue pancong, the traditional cake of the Betawi, the native inhabitants of Jakarta. And if you dry-fry the grated coconut in a pan,
then add it to steamed, spiced chicken with a number of other ingredients, you will have yourself a delicious ayam serundeng kelapa, a sumptuous delicacy from Tasikmalaya, West Java.
A Heart of Palm Dish
Heart of palm, known as umbut in Central Kalimantan and palmitos in Costa Rica, tastes no different from 1bamboo shoots. The heart of palm can be harvested only by chopping down the whole tree, in order to get the leaves stripped and the stems trimmed away with a machete until only the tender heart remains. In other countries, the heart of palm is often used for salad. However, in Kalimantan, the umbut is prepared in curry style, combined with pumpkin and beef ribs, and simmered in coconut milk. This delicious dish is normally served during wedding ceremonies. Whether made into main dishes, snacks, cakes, drinks or desserts, coconut offers a uniquely savoury, sweet taste that never fails to tempt the palate.
Vikaria Lestari, Javanese by birth, is a writer and translator whose passions are travelling, food and reading. Her hobby, amongst others, is observing the unique characteristics of different cuisines and places, which she shares later in her writing. Her published works include translated novels written by bestselling American authors, as well as travel and lifestyle articles.