Welcome, dear readers, to COCONUT DAY 2012. I am a big, big fan of les noix de coco, and have decided an entire post to them. We’re going to eat coconut-y food, taste coconut-y sweets, and drool over recipes that feature it. Buckle up.
My dad doesn’t like coconut, so I was sadly deprived of the stuff as a child. I do remember one time when he relented on our house’s unofficial coconut ban; he came home with a whole coconut from the grocery store, and we gathered in the backyard as he chopped it in half with an axe. It was all very exciting, but I can still remember being terribly disappointed by the liquid inside – I was expecting creamy, white coconut milk, and what was with this watery juice?! I do enjoy a bottle of coconut water now, but my 7 year-old self was unconcerned with its hydrational benefits.
Also, we have since determined that it is the texture, not flavour, of dried coconut that my dad dislikes, so all hope is not lost.
Gloriously, many Asian cuisines feature coconut in both sweet and savoury dishes, and it’s particularly essential to Thai and Malaysian cooking. I therefore decided to make Thai House the featured restaurant for COCONUT DAY 2012, and the choice was a good one.
We ordered Lettuce Wraps with lean ground naturally raised free-range Ostrich ($14,); Tom Kha Gai Soup with chicken, mushrooms, lemongrass, coconut milk, and Thai spice (single serving = $5), traditional Pad Thai ($12); coconut rice; and Boneless Roasted Duck in red curry paste with coconut milk, served in a Fresh Whole Young Coconut ($16).
The lettuce wraps were excellent. The ostrich was some of the most tender ground meat I’ve ever had, and it was tossed with cubes of fried tofu, vegetables, and fresh basil in a sweet, spicy sauce – full of flavour and a lovely mix of textures. So everybody, now we know that naturally-raised free-range ground Ostrich = AWESOME!
Tom Kha Gai is easily one of my favourite Thai dishes; its silky, round flavour is everything I love about coconut milk, and the faint sourness of the broth is perfect with sweet coconut rice. The single serving is small, but still good to share; the bowl was packed with chicken, mushrooms, and firm stalks of chopped lemongrass. I would certainly order this again.
The Pad Thai was tasty – the noodles and prawns were cooked well – but the sauce was just a little too sweet for me. I suppose that’s just a matter of preference, though.
Finally, there was the roasted duck in red curry sauce, a dish we could call ‘the fluffy white icing on top of this coconut cake of a meal.’ Visually, it’s a crowd-pleaser, and it tasted good too.
The thick curry sauce held some impossibly tender duck, pineapple, chopped fresh tomatoes, bamboo shoots, and slices of fresh coconut flesh. It was rich and warm with spice.
The coconut rice was nicely cooked, but not nearly coconutty enough for me. I’m forever on the search for the perfect bowl.
Our bill came to about $60 for three people. Not cheap by Richmond standards, but reasonable considering we took leftovers home and were plenty stuffed.
The next player up on today’s roster is the Coconut Macaroon from The Sweet Spot Bakery. I’d heard these chewy treats are beloved by the community, and now I know why.
Neither of these pictures do them justice – they are LARGE – and look practically roasted. They’re a dark, caramelized brown, while the insides remain white as snow and soft-gooey-sweet.
They’re the ultimate coconut lover’s dessert. Sweet Spot, you nailed it. Yet again.
Coconut: Round 3 goes to the cocktail buns from St. Germain Bakery in Aberdeen Centre. At every Chinese bakery I visit, I buy a cocktail bun (or six) to try out. Egg tarts and almond sponge cake may not do it for me, but I am ALL ABOUT cocktail buns.
They’re my ultimate snack: brioche-like bread filled with soft, sweet coconut paste (like marzipan, only made with finely-ground dried coconut) and topped with sesame seeds. Buttery, coconutty, bready perfection.
I ate my first one last year, and since then I’ve been hooked. Some bakeries do them better than others, and St. Germain ranks quite high. Unfortunately I squished the poor things in my bag on the way home, so they weren’t as ready for their closeups as they might have been. I assure you though, when on the shelf they looked quite glamorous.
Finally, I must remind you of one of the best coconut beverages in Richmond, because no COCONUT DAY 2012 would be complete without something to cheers with.
When dining on my giant bowl of laksa at Cattle Cafe many months ago, I had a coconut slush with pearls. Not only did it taste amaaaazing, but it was pretty splendid to look at, too. Like a reverse night sky with giant black stars.
And now, here’s my wish list for coconutty recipes I’d like to make in the next while, and by ‘make’ I really mean ‘bake,’ because most of them are sweets.
Lamingtons by David Lebovitz (for my dear Suzie, Happy, Happy Birthday!)
While I could go on searching the internets forever, I shall stop here. That’s probably enough coconut for one day.
Just kidding. That’s an impossibility in my world. Thanks for joining COCONUT DAY 2012. I do hope you’ll find yourself something coconutty today, and if you do, please share it! Come January 1st, I’ll begin planning for C-DAY 2013. Can’t wait.
image from www.21food.com
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Vegetarian options available