Sunday, January 6, 2013
Nata de Coco
In the Philippines, around a third of the population makes a living from coconut-related activities and products. Known affectionately as the "tree of life", the coconut palm yields an astonishing range of goods, from buttons and building materials to a store's-worth of edibles including coconut flesh, cream, milk, jam, curd, sugar, flour, and oil.
One of the simplest coconut products is the basis for one of the most complicated. To make coconut water all you do is poke a hole or two through the hull and pour out the refreshing drink sloshing around inside. To make nata de coco, you combine that water with a specific bacteria, acetobacter xylinium, and let it ferment. The bacterial colony produces a thick, squishy mat of coconut-flavored cellulose. Cleaned, sweetened, and cut into pieces, that gel is a high-fiber, low-fat delicacy enjoyed in drinks, pudding, fruit salad, or shaved ice desserts.
Although nata de coco is Spanish for "coconut cream", these cubes have a uniquely rubbery texture. Nata de coco is chewier than agar, less sticky than tapioca, and much tastier than an eraser.