In the Pacific and throughout Asia, there
are special instruments for grating the flesh from a coconut, with
curved blades which fit into the curved shell, making it easy and safe.
If such a tool is not available, heat the halved coconut in a moderate
oven for 15-20 minutes which will make the white meat shrink from the
shell. Carefully praise the meat out of the shell and remove the dark
brown skin on the outer curves using a vegetable peeler. The pieces of
coconut can then be grated, processed or blended.
Coconut is used in many ways. Freshly
grated, served alongside curries or sambals with the sting of chilies,
it serves to cool the tongue and give a touch of sweetness. With
chilies, onion, lime juice and salt added, it can do just the opposite
and become a hot sambal.
A coconut sambal can be as varied as the
cook wants it to be. A red sambal, with chili powder; a green sambal,
with ground fresh curry leaves, coriander or mint; a brown sambal, in
which the coconut is toasted until it takes on a completely different
flavor; or a piquant dried shrimp sambal. The coconut enriches and
balances the other flavors.
Another indispensable use for grated coconut
is when it is toasted until deep brown, ground finely and used to
thicken and enrich certain dishes. In Asian markets it is possible to
purchase a small plastic bags containing roasted and ground coconut,
looking not unlike ground coffee. In Western kitchens it can be
achieved, perhaps not quite so finely ground, using a powerful electric
blender, after the coconut has been toasted in a dry frying pan.