grated coconut

Using coconut for cooking

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By the time we were old enough to know whats what, our parents had already made the switch to cheaper hydrogenated vegetable oils and other refined vegetable oils. Thus we never used coconut oil for cooking. In fact, I didn’t even know it was edible till I was in my early 30’s. Whenever I thought about coconut oil, it was always in the context of medicinal oil or hair oil as we used it in medicinal hair oils by steeping various herbs and grasses in it and by simmering various botanical extracts in coconut oil sometimes even for a few days.

However grated coconut was always in the picture and added to meat, vegetable and savory dishes made them taste delicious. Sweetened coconut milk (covered in a separate post) along with boiled sweet potatoes was a heady mix of taste and nutrition. We also had stews prepared with coconut milk. Stir fried vegetables when they were almost done received a generous sprinkling of grated coconut and a quick stir before the flame was turned off. Coconut was also mixed with jaggery or sugar and used as a sweet stuffing to be used in steamed or fried dishes or less often, thin flat strips of coconut were cut out of the shell to be added to some dishes.

We already covered husking a coconut in a separate post, so here we will see how to crack open a coconut. Some western books and websites have crazy methods of breaking open coconuts like putting it in an oven and baking it for a while before cracking it, thus destroying some of the natural nutrients of raw coconut. There is no big secret in cracking open a coconut and you don’t need to use your oven.

There are different blunt tools used in different parts of coastal India to break open a coconut. Some are blunt, some are cleaver shaped, but this post deals with how we have always done it -using a multipurpose sickle called the katti in Tulu.

Hold the coconut in the palm of your left hand (unless you are a leftie) keep a bowl ready to collect the coconut water
Hold the coconut in the palm of your left hand (I am right handed) keep a bowl ready to collect coconut water

 

Using a katti or a heavy blunt implement give it a smart whack on the black line running top to bottom
Using a katti or a heavy blunt implement give it a smart whack on the black line running left to right as shown in the picture above
Turn it around a give it another whack at approximately the same location -like following the equator of the earth
Turn it around a quarter and give it another whack at approximately the same distance from the sides
Keep turning and repeating following the marks of the katti from the last whack until the shell gives way
Keep turning and repeating following the marks of the katti from the last whack until the shell gives way
Hold it over the bowl, insert the tip of the katti into the crack and twist the katti
Hold it over the bowl, insert the tip of the katti into the crack and twist the katti
Now the coconut is ready to be grated or can be pried out with a knife or cut into pieces
Now the coconut is ready to be grated or can be pried out with a knife or cut into pieces
We use a traditional grater to grate both the halves of the coconut. Each half of the coconut is called a gadi in Tulu and is also a measure of how much coconut to add for a recipe.

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We will cover drying coconut for storage in a separate post

My tenants break the coconut cleanly by banging it on a large rock, so you don’t always need tools to crack open a coconut. You can do it too as the video below shows.

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CREDITS: | Manorama Soans |

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