Thursday, December 30th, 2010...3:32 pm
For the uninitiated, coconut candy might seem a tad daunting. To eat, that is. Little squares of toxic-coloured coconut shreds, bound together by what appears to be sugar and more sugar? Hot pink? Neon green? It can’t possibly be edible.
Only it is, and it is so delicious. Growing up in Singapore, my mum wouldn’t let us buy it off the shelves at the little mama shops around the void decks of HDB blocks, which was probably a good idea, seeing as the last thing a hyperactive kid needs is a huge hit of sugar straight into your bloodstream. As a compromise though, once in a while she’d make it for us as a treat. I didn’t really mind, since making it at home meant I could colour the blocks of candy any way I wanted.
When I was in Singapore a few weeks ago, I walked past a Bengawan Solo on the way to lunch with a friend, and she mentioned never being allowed to eat coconut candy as a kid either. That passing comment was enough to set both of us craving the stuff, fueled – of course – by how Bengawan Solo seems to have stopped making/selling this candy!
Once I got back to HK, I started looking for fresh shredded coconut, and e-mailed my mum to get her recipe. Once I found the coconut, I whipped up a few batches, went mad with the food colouring (as usual), and vacuum packed a little of it to send back to the one responsible for this craving back in Singapore. :)
It’s easy enough to make at home, requiring only three main ingredients – coconut, evaporated milk, and sugar. Different recipes will call for rose or vanilla flavouring, but I used a combination of rose water and fresh pandan leaves, which is how my mum used to make it. The only thing to note is that you’re gonna be standing in front of the stove stirring an unwieldy mixture in a pot for the better part of an hour, which will get pretty tiring, but it’s nothing a little Röyksøpp won’t fix. :)
250g fresh shredded coconut
325g caster sugar
100g full cream evaporated milk
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
2 pandan leaves, knotted
20g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 tsp rose water
food colouring (optional, but not really!)
Line a small, shallow tray with greaseproof paper, and butter the paper. (I used a tray around 8″ x 5″ x 1″.) Combine the coconut, sugar, milk, salt and pandan in a medium-sized, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat, and carefully mix. The contents of your pot will seem dry at first, then liquid will seep out of the coconut and the sugar will melt, giving you a very soupy mixture.
Cook the coconut mixture, stirring every couple of minutes to ensure that it doesn’t catch at the bottom and burn, for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. The liquid should thicken and reduce, and then completely cook off until you’re left with a very thick paste that pulls away from the sides of the vessel. Remove from heat, then quickly beat in the butter, rose water and food colouring. Using a pair of chopsticks, pull out and discard the spent pandan leaves. Don’t be tempted to use your fingers, as cooked sugar is extremely hot! Quickly tip the mixture out into your prepared pan and, using the back of a wooden spoon, or a sturdy silicone spatula, gently pat it down into an even layer.
Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes, then score the surface with a sharp knife, dividing the tray into about 16-20 pieces. Allow to cool and harden completely, then remove from the tray and cut through the scored surface. The candy will keep in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks at room temperature, which is probably a good thing, since I can’t eat more than 1-2 pieces at a shot. :)