VUNG TAU, VIETNAM--Another beautiful food in Vietnam is another one that is found throughout the tropics. The coconut is a multi-purpose jewel. The meat can be cooked down into milk and made into curry dishes. That deserves a post of its own. It can be pressed into oil and used for cooking or skin moisturizing. That too should be its own post. It is also made into a candy. Coconut water is a popular health fad in the west but here it is a common drink found at any cafe.
I started eating the coconut meat when Xenia would use a spoon to scrape out the meat from the coconut after finishing drinking the coconut water from the natural vessel in restaurants we would go to. She would then do this once we discovered that our favorite breakfast cafe served whole coconut. One day I asked the waitress to split it open so we could more easily scoop out the meat. Xenia didn't want to waste the meat. She had read about raw coconut meat's multiple health benefits. I too was impressed. And due to its wide availability in Vietnam, I found no reason not to form a new habit.
Coconut meat from a young coconut is soft and slippery like a jelly. An older coconut is thicker and drier and offers a little more chew. Both have a sweet nutty taste and go amazingly well with the bitter/nutty taste of Vietnamese coffee.
We often sit in the shaded cafe, enjoying our breakfast as the traffic goes by. Recently the weather has turned extremely hot making me want to eat less. The fatty coconut is the perfect food to keep me fueled until dinner time.
Coconut feels like a luxury to me. I never grew up with it. There are however some health concerns about the saturated fat. Health experts are always warning about the dangers of eating too much saturated fat. Therefore coconut is a food best avoided. But Polynesian populations that eat a high amount of coconut seem to have no sign of the health problems related to high consumption of saturated fats as seen in the western diet. (source) So there must be something else at play.
In the meantime, you will find me spooning out the jiggly flesh of coconut straight from the husk. Xenia says it tastes better than ice cream. Our daily routine of each having an iced coffee and a whole coconut costs us 65,000 VND or the equivalent of 3 USD.