South Indian payasams typically feature rice or lentils and were traditionally hot desserts. It's probably why I still remember the first time I sampled elaneer payasam at the Taj Coromandel in Chennai. Elaneer translates to tender coconut water and this dessert at the hotel's South Indian signature restaurant - Southern Spice, is refreshing and features unexpected textures in a payasam or kheer. This dessert combines the textures of tender coconut with coconut milk and is served cold. Over the years, I've seen elaneer payasam make an appearance in many fine South Indian restaurants and is one of the best adverts for cooking with tender coconut.
Across South India, vendors selling coconut water always offer to cut open the coconut and carve out the flesh from young coconuts, once you've sipped out all the coconut water. It's also not unusual for these tender coconut bits to be added to mocktails or cocktails with tender coconut water. These fleshy bits are also commonly referred to as young coconut meat in the West and make an interesting ingredient for desserts.
Cooking With Tender Coconut:
1. Elaneer Payasam- (Recipe Courtesy - Chef Shankar Padmanabhan - Sous Chef - Southern Spice)
Number of portions - 6
The use of jaggery in this recipe ensures this dessert is not cloyingly sweet. You can source fresh tender coconut kernels from your local tender coconut water vendor and use it almost immediately for the best results. The culinary team at Southern Spice also recommends that you consume this dessert on the same day.
- Fresh coconut milk - 600 ml
- Tender coconut kernels - 200 grams
- Jaggery - 100 grams (can be increased or decreased as per personal taste)
- Reduced milk (Rabdi) - 150 ml
- Scrape off the flesh of tender coconut and finely chop, and set aside.
- Chill all the ingredients except the jaggery.
- Pound jaggery into a fine powder.
- Add thick and fresh coconut milk, combine the mixture well and sieve.
- Now add the reduced milk (rabdi) and the chopped tender coconut kernels, stir and mix gently.
- Serve chilled.
2. Tender Coconut Broth - (Recipe Courtesy By Chef Shine Sreevisakhan, Executive Chef, Villa Maya)
I've dined twice at Villa Maya, a restaurant set in a historic 18th Century home in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram. I began both my meals with this refreshing soup. While it's no longer uncommon to find desserts crafted with tender coconut, a warm soup with tender coconut was a pleasant surprise.
- Tender Coconut: 1
- Green Onion: 5 gms
- Green Chilli: 1/2
- White pepper powder: a pinch
- Coriander leaves: 5 gms
- Salt: to taste
- Sugar: to taste (optional)
- Cut tender coconut and collect water separately.
- Remove malai (pulp) from coconut.
- Bring tender coconut water to simmer, after adding all the ingredients (onion, green chilli, white pepper, coriander leaves, salt to taste).
- Add malai at the last and serve hot in coconut shell.
3. Coconut Mascarpone Jar- (Recipe Courtesy - Cafe Mercara Express, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai)
Serves - 8
This unique dessert is a fascinating interplay between mascarpone cheese - a quintessential Italian ingredient for desserts like tiramisu, with tender coconut and coconut milk.
- Mascarpone cheese: 500gms
- Coconut milk: 150gms
- Sugar: 50gms
- Lemon juice: 5ml
- Lemon: 2 nos
- Tender coconut chunks: 100gms
- Strawberry (Diced): 30gms
- Blueberry: 30gms
- Kiwi (Diced): 20gms
- Roasted pecan nut: 15gms
- Butter: 10gms
- Sugar: 30gms
- Popcorn: 20gms
- Whip the mascarpone in a clean bowl; fold it with coconut milk, sugar, lemon juice and zest to form a creamy base.
- Take glass jars and layer them with diced strawberries, kiwis, blueberries, tender coconut chunks and coconut mascarpone mixture alternatively.
- Melt butter and sugar in a pan, cook for 3-4 minutes till the sugar caramelises slightly, place the popcorns on a silicon mat, pour the sugar mixture on the popcorn and quickly mix it.
- Garnish the jar with caramelised popcorns.
We all know about the cooling effects of tender coconut water - one reason why it's a 'go-to' drink during the summer. Tender coconut packs the same benefits. It's a rich source of potassium, sodium and B vitamins (vital in the production of red blood cells) including folate. It's also rich in fibre. One tip that I've heard from many chefs is to consume tender coconut on the same day without refrigerating it for too long. That's one thing you'll want to keep in mind while trying out these simple recipes at home.
About Ashwin RajagopalanI am the proverbial slashie - a content architect, writer, speaker and cultural intelligence coach. School lunch boxes are usually the beginning of our culinary discoveries.That curiosity hasn’t waned. It’s only got stronger as I’ve explored culinary cultures, street food and fine dining restaurants across the world. I’ve discovered cultures and destinations through culinary motifs. I am equally passionate about writing on consumer tech and travel.