According to the International Coconut Community (ICC), Vietnamese coconut has the highest productivity and quality in the world. Talking about coconut in Vietnam is to talk about Ben Tre Province, which is likened to the capital of coconut. Coconut plays an important role not only in the economy but also in culture and other different aspects of life.
I - Vietnamese coconut and Vietnamese cuisine
The distinct flavor of coconut makes it an indispensable ingredient to a variety of dishes and drinks in Vietnam.
1 - Vietnamese drinks from coconut
Coconut water is an ideal beverage in Vietnam. It contains high content of water and low fat. In Vietnam, the coconut water is usually drunk directly through a plastic straw plugged into the fruit’s shell. This drink is much fresher than packaged or canned stuff sold at supermarkets and department stores while the price is quite the same.
The smaller and younger the fruit is, the sweeter its water is. If the water turns salty, it means the coconut is too old to be served. This beverage is much more delicious when served icy. When drinking Vietnamese coconut water, don’t forget to scrape the flesh as a topping of the drink.
Coconut in Vietnam - Source: lacdavang
While coconut water is an instant and unprocessed drink, coconut coffee is an excellent creativity of Vietnamese. By grinding condensed milk and coconut flesh and then pouring the whole mixture into a cup of filter coffee, you will have a wonderful beverage that is imbued with Vietnamese characteristics. The greasy and buttery taste of Vietnam coconut and the sweetness of condensed milk not only lessen the bitterness but also intensify the distinct flavor of the coffee.
Vietnamese coconut jelly is another drink from coconut that is loved by many people, no matter young or old. With coconut water as the main ingredient, the finished product has a nearly transparent color. The cook can add some pieces of young coconut flesh or combine them with other fruits to have a delicious dessert. Moreover, nowadays, coconut jelly has become a favorite topping for other drinks in Vietnam such as bubble tea, yogurt, and coffee,...
2 - Vietnamese coconut is used as a marinade
Coconut water - Source: alobacsi
Coconut in Vietnam is particularly suitable for caramelization. The fruit features such an exceptional taste: a bit salty, a bit sweet and a pleasant scent, which is perfect for making the caramelized food less fatty and greasy. Slices of coconut because of its hardness when cooked into a dish brings eaters an interesting experience. The two most favorite dishes are caramelized chicken with coconut and caramelized pork with coconut.
Coconut caramel chicken
To make Vietnamese coconut caramel chicken, the necessary ingredients are chicken, coconut flesh cut into long and thick pieces, and coconut water. After the chicken is marinated with all condiments and stirred in caramel sauce, the coconut pieces and coconut water are added to the pot. Then, the last work is to cook with medium heat until the chicken is well-done and infused with spices. The dish once finished is tawny, coconut-smelling. The inclusion of coconut in the recipe makes the dish much more attractive to all types of eaters.
Besides the caramelized chicken, caramelized pork is also a delicacy in which Vietnamese coconut is an essential component. The two dishes have a similar process. However, because pork bacon contains more fat and an unpleasant smell, it is necessary to go with coconut to have its stink overwhelmed. As compared to the plain version, the one with coconut has a better taste which helps the eater enjoy a great amount without getting enough of it.
3 - Vietnamese coconut is used as the main ingredient for food
Not only being a side ingredient for foods, but coconut is also a pivotal ingredient for several specialties. The first name to mention is coconut cake, which originated in Ben Tre Province. To make the cake, besides the flesh of the coconut, people can take advantage of the coconut leaf to make its wrap. When serving, eaters can feel the salty taste of salt, the slightly fatty coconut, the softness of sticky rice, and the buttery taste of the leaf.
Coconut candy is also a famous specialty of Ben Tre province. With a sweet taste, this candy is loved by many international tourists who often bought it as a gift after their vacation to Vietnam.
Coconut sticky rice - Source: bepnhaga
Coconut sticky rice
While Vietnamese coconut cake is a special dish of a locale, steamed sticky rice with coconut is the breakfast that most Vietnamese people are used to. Vietnamese sticky rice has a myriad of variants but the one cooked with coconut seems to be the most distinguished both in flavor and recipe. The sticky rice after being soaked in cool water overnight is let dry and mixed with a little cooking oil. While the sticky rice is steamed, the coconut flesh is grated and then mixed with sugar. When the sticky rice is done, the cook pours coconut milk on its surface, covers it with sugared grated coconut, and then continues to cook for a few minutes more. Vietnamese coconut sticky rice is sweet and appetizing to all subjects, especially the kids.
Coconut rice paper
Another specialty made of coconut is coconut rice paper in Binh Dinh province. The snack is made from rice, coconut milk, sesame, salt and other seasonings. These ingredients are evenly mixed then coated on a big frame. After that, it is dried under the sun for a day. When roasted, the paper swells and gives out a sweet scent. It has a taste of fried onion, coconut and sesame, bit salty due to the salt.
Vietnamese coconut noodles
Coconut noodles or Bánh tằm bì is a one-of-the-kind dish that makes foodies so excited when serving and knowing how it is cooked. At the first glance, many may mistake it for a noodle soup because of the resemblance of the noodle. However, the noodle of Banh tam bi is shaped by the combination of wheat flour and tapioca, therefore, it is incredibly soft and fat.
An important component of Vietnamese coconut noodles is pigskins. The flesh of the pig is removed from the hair, boiled, and sliced into thin strips. The cook roasts some rice, grinds it, and blends it with pigskin. What makes the dish special is coconut milk. The existence of coconut milk in a savory dish is expected to be unsuitable but it turns out to be suitable unexpectedly.
Coconut jam is very easy to process, therefore, Vietnamese families often homemade it to treat guests every Vietnamese New Year. The most difficult step to make Vietnamese coconut jam is probably grating coconut. The strips of coconut must be long and alike. The following is just marinating them with sugar for a couple of hours and stirring under low heat until the coconut is totally dry and coated with a white layer of sugar. This Vietnamese New Year food can be preserved in dry conditions for a long period. Coconut jam is best when served with a cup of green tea or other herbal drink.
II - Vietnamese coconut tree and Vietnamese daily life
In Vietnam, it is said that every part of the coconut tree is helpful. Water and flesh can be used to make food and drink. The fiber and shell of coconut are ideal alternatives for burning materials because of their flammability. The fiber of coconut, specifically, is put into the production of household stuff such as rope, chopsticks, carpets, and mattresses,...
Vietnamese coconut tree plays an important role in the local daily life - Source: vnexpress
Coconut leaf is applied in manufacturing souvenirs such as hats, and handbags,... Brooms made of dry coconut leaves are used popularly in Vietnam. The trunk of the coconut tree is now seen as precious wood in the furniture industry. Moreover, thanks to its durability and hydrophilicity, coconut in Vietnam is popularly seen in irrigation works.
III - Vietnamese coconut tree and Vietnamese literature
The image of coconut has appeared in many poems, prose, and folk songs of Vietnam. With its high symbolic value, coconut has many meaningful inferences. It can be the confident and brave posture of the Ben Tre women in the famous song “Dang dung Ben Tre” (Ben Tre posture).
Because Vietnam coconut bears an abundance of fruits each time, it is considered the manifestation of wealth, prosperity, and fecundity. Therefore, Vietnamese coconut is always one of five fruits in the fruit tray on the altar of our ancestors on Lunar New Year. Above all, coconut trees are attached to the countryside, homeland, and the childhood of anyone. Therefore, it will be a symbol of nostalgia and memories for many Vietnamese
Coconut not only feeds Vietnamese people but also is an important leverage for their souls. Therefore, it is not difficult to see why Vietnamese people, especially the Southern, have too much affection for this fruit and tree. With the current development, Vietnamese coconut is expected to spread across the boundary of the country and reach the world.