Those scorching days of summer, and our eyes would automatically scan the neighbourhood in search of local pushcart vendors selling coconut water in their tubs. Even a little sip is refreshing, having an unbelievable power to rejuvenate one instantly. One of the best things about coconut is that you can relish it when it's fresh as well as in the dried form mixed with a variety of nuts and dry fruits. Many of us love to try your hands on some of the most traditional coconut recipes, some secret culinary gems running in the family since years altogether. For many of us wooly coconut ladoos, delightful coconut kheer or scrummy coconut barfisare absolutely irreplaceable even when pitched against the fanciest of all imported treats. When it comes to the food that simmers in the local pots of South India, a subtle yet distinct coconut-y flavour is the first thought. Thanks to those rich, coconut-based curries that make the cuisine so popular.
The origin of coconut is debatable. Many believe that they were peculiar to the Americas however the derivation of its name (from the word 'coco', meaning 'head' or 'skull' in ancient Spanish) suggests it to be first grown and domestically cultivated in parts of Europe. Today, coconut cultivation almost goes hand in hand with most tropical areas (mostly coastal) of the world including the Americas, India, Indonesia, Maldives, parts of the Middle East and Africa, Philippines, Australia, Thailand and others.
Different parts of the world have their own special way of using this ingredient to stir up a storm in their cooking vessels. Cultures across the globe make use of this versatile crop to the fullest - from coconut milk, cream, sap, oil, water to even its leaves, dried shell and portions of bark that are used for smoking dishes. The global food and cosmetic industry is reaping mammoth benefits creating health foods and various other lifestyle and beauty products from coconuts.
Coconut is easily grown and most widely available across the world. Its cultivation is inexpensive which makes it affordable as well. It is highly nutritious and enriched with health benefiting properties. Coconut milk and yoghurt are now slowly replacing the conventional use of milk in many delicacies and preparations, so don't be surprised if you spot coconut milk lattes or smoothies at a cafe near you.
Coconut by-products are also considered great for hair and skin. Owing to these and many other special features of coconut, fitness and health experts across the globe have already predicted coconut as one of biggest fitness mantras in the coming years. Not much to our surprise, coconut water is all set to become the new health drink replacing the artificially sweetened, aerated energy drinks.
India is the third largest producer of coconut in the world - after Indonesia and Philippines. Though coconut is largely used in multiple culinary ways across the country, the southern states' dependence on coconut is simply indispensable. From chutneys, to creating lip-smacking dosas, idli, sambar, avial, curries and a lot more - South India's delectable affair with coconut is an age-old gastronomic tale.
Coconut is also used in making alcohol, sugar, jaggery and vinegar. In India, coconut liquors such as feni in Goa and toddy in Kerala are quite popular. The traditional Christian Goan cuisine also boasts of getting its distinct flavour due to the addition of coconut vinegar.
Coconut in its myriad forms is one of our favourite ingredients to cook with in the kitchen. From decadent desserts, delicious drinks to mouth-watering main course preparations - coconut has the ability to give a creamy, aromatic spin to your culinary endeavours. Who could forget the world renowned Lamingtons, soul nourishing Thai curries, delectable macaroons and our very own payasam, kheer, barfis, ladoos, varieties of rice preparations and curries? Bringing to light the gastronomic pervasiveness of coconut, not just in India but across the length and breadth of the globe too, we present our top recipes from renowned master chefs. Here goes!
A fiery Coorgi vegetarian preparation that is ready in a snap and an absolute treat to the taste buds. Mushrooms are cooked in an array of spices and a dash of coconut vinegar that elevates the deliciousness to another level.
8. Chicken Xacuti Recipe by Chef Alphonso Periera, Hotel Mandavi Panjim, Goa
An all time Goan classic created by cooking chicken pieces in a host of aromatic and flavourful spices as well as coconut.
9. Murgh Rezala Recipe by Chef Niru Gupta Chef Niru Gupta cooks up a popular Bengali chicken preparation much to your delight. Chunks of chicken are cooked in yoghurt, cream, cashew paste, coconut and simple spices.