Crazy over Coconuts

From acai berries to activated almonds, kale to quinoa, superfoods come and go. One minute it’s cacao, the next minute it’s chia seeds.

Coconut products at my local health food store

Coconut products at my local health food store

Right now, Sydney is crazy over coconuts. Health food shops are touting everything “coconutty” – coconut water, coconut milk, extra virgin coconut oil, coconut flour, shredded coconut, coconut flakes…

And every time I see this, I have a chuckle. You see, back in Bombay, coconuts were… well, ordinary. They were part-and-parcel of our lives and we didn’t give them a second thought. But today, when I spend $2 on a tender coconut, you bet I think about them!

Coconuts conjures up memories of…
* Lazy summer holidays on Gorai beach under the swaying coconut palms.
* Agile men shimmying up coconut trees to take down a lovely bunch of coconuts.
* Cooling, sweet nariyal pani (coconut water) and milky white slips of melt-in-your-mouth malai (cream) from a tender coconut.
* Sipping on palm feni while holidaying in Goa.
* My mum giving my head an oil massage (tail malish) with Parachute coconut hair oil every Saturday morning.
* Sitting on my haunches in my Nana Evelyn’s kitchen mesmerised by the maid rhythmically scrapping a coconut on the coconut scrapper, a mountain of fluffy white coconut getting higher and higher.
* Feasting on fiery fish-curry-rice replete with coconut milk for lunch at my Nana Violet’s house.
* Thali Sweet – a coconut cake made by my East Indian community that is sliced into delicious diamonds.
* Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) and eating pancakes stuffed with moist coconut filling.

But most of all, coconuts remind me of when I was little and sometimes accompanied my dad to the Bandra bazaar. This market, like most open-air markets, was a cacophony of sights, sounds and smells – so different from the orderly, somewhat sterile, supermarkets here in Sydney.

Our Sunday morning ‘marketing’ usually meant a pit-stop at the coconut stall owned by Ramzan, (R.I.P.) the coconut walla who talked in plurals!

“Good morning, Tonys!” Ramzan would call out to my dad.
“Hello, beti! (daughter). You will haves nariyal pani, yes?”
“I will give you one with sweet-sweet waters.”

He’d cast his eye over all his coconuts, patiently sitting one on top of each other, and make his selection. With one firm ‘twhack’ of his koita (chopper), he’d crack open the hard brown shell, while the fresh, sweet coconut water trickled into a glass below. Mine to drink – for free! If I were lucky – a one in a million chance – the coconut would have a baby flower growing inside it.
Dad would buy his weekly quota of half a coconut which mum would use in so many mouth-watering curries.

Check out some photos of our trip to the backwaters of Kerala (January 2014) where swaying coconut palms come as standard!

So tell me, do you use coconut in your cooking? In sweet or savoury dishes? Have you ever gone to an open-air marketplace?

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11 responses to “Crazy over Coconuts

  1. I only use coconut oil (whipped up with lavendar oil) as my moisturiser. And it stops a sunburn in its tracks. Hand lotion. Sunbloc. You name it, extra virigin coconut oil goes in. Coconut butter to fry at high heat. Yumbo. But we also have chia seeds, actived seeds and nuts (all go in my maple sweeted and cocnut oil coated granola) and all those other lovely health foods you mentioned. Now if only I could get myself one of those delicious curries you mentioned!!!! xxx

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  2. Hey you forgot to write about the medicinal aspect of coconut….how when you aren’t well sometimes all u live on is coconut water.

    Also the quintessential Bollywood love stories of the 70s and 80s when one of the top things on the lovers to do list was sharing nariyal pani at Juhu beach. 😉

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  3. Love reading yr blog…. I miss the nariyal pani too… I m actually buying it in a bottle… Something’s u just can’t put into a bottle n expect them to taste the same….

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    • I know, Sharrie – just not the same drinking it out of a tetra pack. I buy tender coconuts over here. Think they import them from SE Asian countries. But gosh, they are expensive when you think how many coconuts you’d get in Bombay for the same money!

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  4. Pingback: Recipe: Coconut Ice | liaisonwithalison·

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