Toasted coconut ribbons

Anyone who knows me knows that I love coconut, so it's no surprise that one of my favorite Lunar New Year treats are candied coconut ribbons called mut dua. Now, if you're actually familiar with this confection, you're probably looking at my blog and thinking, "Dude, you totally burned your mut dua." And you're be correct. I was too distracted watching a fascinating documentary that analyzed the stresses placed on women by our overbearing consumer culture and stifling heteronormativity (::cough::rockoflovebus::cough::) to stir my coconut as frequently as I should have.

These strips of coconut are usually pure, powdery white, or sometimes dyed pink and green. But they're also cloyingly sweet and lacking in any real flavor other than the in-your-face-and-piss-your-dentist-off scream of sugar. My accident was actually a great mistake that tuned up the coconut's creamy flavor, while the caramelization and hint of vanilla softened the blow of the sweetness. Handling mature coconuts is a bit of an endeavor, but it's totally worth it. Bland, store-bought mut dua no more!

Toasted coconut ribbons
1 mature coconut (the brown, hairy ones)
3/4 c. vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 375F.

Using a hammer and large nail (or power drill, if you want to get fancy), poke holes in 2 of your coconut's 3 eyes and drain out the water. Strain the liquid to remove any hair or shell bits that might have fallen in, then set aside.

Bake your coconut on the center rack of you oven for about 20 minutes. The shell should be cracked in several places. Remove the coconut and set it on a solid counter top on folded dishtowel to help secure it in place. Get out some aggression and firmly beat your coconut with the hammer several times until the shell splits open. You'll notice that the coconut is covered with two layers of bark: a hard, hairy outer shell and a thin, snug inner skin. A combination of hammer-abuse and gentle prying with a paring knife will separate the hard shell from the meat. Use the knife or a vegetable peeler to remove the inner skin. Try to keep your coconut in as large of pieces as possible so you'll have bigger ribbons. (You might notice that I wasn't too successful at this final note myself, but this was my first attempt at opening a mature coconut, so deal with it!)

Once you have peeled off the inner skin, rinse your coconut chunks under running water to remove any hairs or skin bits that still remain. Pat the coconut dry, then using a sharp knife, slice your coconut into slices about 1/8" thick. Place the ribbons in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer the coconut for about 3-5 minutes to remove some of the oil. Drain the coconut in a colander and rinse out your pot.

Over medium heat, combine the vanilla sugar and 1/4 c. of the coconut water, and stir until dissolved. If you don't have vanilla sugar on hand, use regular sugar plus 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract. Add the coconut ribbons and stir to cover them all in syrup. Reduce heat to medium-low, stirring frequently. The ribbons will turn translucent as they cook.

After about 30 minutes, the pot should be almost dry and the sugar will begin to crystallize. At this point, you can break tradition and stop stirring for a couple minutes. As the sugar at the bottom of the pot begins to caramelize, stir the mixture to get fresh coconut and sugar at the bottom. If the pot starts to get too dry add a tablespoon or two of coconut water to promote caramelization and prevent burning. Continue this process for another 20-25 minutes until your ribbons are nicely toasted and all the water has evaporated.

Spread the coconut ribbons on a baking sheet and allow them to cool completely. They will keep for a couple weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.

1 comment:

Vegetation said...

Mmmmm these sound so good!