Writen by EatinAsian creator Kimlai Yingling
Published in Huffington Post Food
Going to Asian markets with my mom was always an interesting and fun learning experience. There were so many colorful, out of the ordinary things that I was unfamiliar with. Plus my mom was my personal Vietnamese/English translator, which was my gateway to communicating with Asian store employees. The only difference now with our Asian market excursions is that instead of her physically being with me in the store, I usually have her on the phone ready to go, to talk to the cashier or one of the store associates. I don’t speak their language and they don’t speak mine and frankly the pictures never quite depict what’s actually inside the package. And charades doesn’t always cut it.
I have really vivid memories of my mom and I unpacking groceries from the Asian market. It was just as exciting unloading all these exquisite groceries as it was picking them out in the store. One of the more fun fruits I remember (because I got to drink it and eat it) was the coconut. Coconuts meant I got to squat down on the kitchen floor for mother daughter time as she disassembled it with a really big knife without a drop of juice falling out. I always thought she intuitively had really good knife skills. I mean, most ninjas I saw on TV were generally Asian.
It’s a little hard to break through the top of a young coconut unless you have a heavy-duty hunk of steel aka butcher knife. My mom would lay out a bunch of newspaper on the kitchen floor, grab the over sized butcher knife and give it a few whacks using every muscle in her little arms about 2-3 inches from the top. You want to make sure to chop off just enough that you can get a spoon inside once the coconut water is gone, because you will want to scrape out the coconut flesh. The first time I chopped my own I created a small slit. It was perfect for a scrunched up straw but I couldn’t get a spoon in there. I decided to try and chop the coconut in half but the outer layer can be a bit deceiving. It’s harder than a rock! After a few whacks and not really cutting through the shell I noticed the blade on my butcher knife was taking a bit of a beating. A tip I don’t need now but wish I had thought of years ago was to mark the area with a sharpie to use as a guide for the knife.
There is nothing more refreshing than drinking cold coconut water straight out of a young coconut. As I got older I started realizing that because of all the health benefits it is considered a health tonic, better at hydrating your body than sports drinks and fruit juices because of all the electrolytes. The flesh of a young coconut is soft and chewy with a mild flavor plus you can usually get up to a cup and a half of delicious coconut water out of each fruit.
The coconut shells also make a great presentation and as one of my EatinAsian readers suggested…”WOW, it sure would be good with rum.” Yes…the shells can be used multiple times in a sitting, so feel free to get creative. Load it up and pack it with a straw, spoon and colorful drink umbrella.
TIP: When selecting a coconut for the water make sure to get a YOUNG coconut (pictured above) not a mature coconut, which is dark brown in color and generally found in Western markets. The mature coconuts have a furry harsh outer layer and not as much coconut water.