Saturday, April 11, 2015

Coconut Candies

Vietnamese coconut candies
One afternoon in between customers (at Minh Chau Restaurant) my cousin Sieu Hui (aka Tu Hue) and I made coconut candies. This beautiful and tasty home-made treat is even more special when some of your ingredients are home-grown and home-harvested! One of the staff helped by removing the flesh from four medium aged coconuts (that were harvested from the back of the restaurant) and slicing the meat with a peeler. These coconuts must mature just right. They cannot be too young or too old. The very young ones do not have much meat and the very aged ones are too tough. Sieu Hui harvested a handful of pandan leaves from the same land. The process that took the most time was removing the flesh and slicing it. Using a peeler makes the slices even and pretty. After this tedious process the rest is more fun. We added sugar to the sliced coconut and then stirred it over moderately high heat until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Once the moisture has nearly disappeared we had to be quick; requiring us to stir the contents constantly and rapidly over low heat until the coconut slices are completely dried with a residue of sugar on them. 

Coconut Candies

Ingredients:

1 kg (2.2 lbs) of coconut slices
1/2 kg (1.1 lbs) of sugar
About 10 fresh pandan leaves, washed well and cut into 3-4 inch lengths
Food color (optional)

Method:

1) Add the sugar to the coconut slices. Stir well and let it marinade until the sugar has melted. Best left at room temperature for about an hour.
2) Add color to the sugary slices if interested (we divided the slices and its sugary liquid in 2 pots to make white and pink). Add pandan leaves.
3) Cook under medium high heat until the liquid comes to a boil. Stir frequently. May turn heat down slightly but let the liquid simmers until somewhat dry. Decrease the heat to low and keep stirring constantly to prevent the sugar or slices from burning. Remove from heat once the coconut slices and sugar are completely dried. Bag the slices once they are cooled.

marinading coconut slices in sugar
my cousin Sieu Hui (Tu Hue) happily
stirring the pots using both hands
keep stirring, the slices still glossy and moist looking
getting there, keep stirring
the slices appear very dry = done
here is beautiful freshly
made coconut candies
these are too time consuming to make or else
we could sell them at her restaurant
A few helpful and useful tips:

 *Once the sugar has melted you can taste and check to see if the sweetness is according to your liking.
*We added just a little bit of color (about 1/8 teaspoon) to 1/2 of the batch. The food coloring that we used, red Wilton Icing Color. After mixing the color in everything has a light pink color. However, after cooking down the liquid the slices became a pretty brighter pink. The white is the natural color of the coconut.
*The whole process of cooking the candies may take up to 40-60 minutes. Once the liquid has absorbed and evaporated remember to turn the heat to low to keep the coconut slices from burning or turning yellow. Initially you do not have to be as quick. Once the candies start to get dry and you have turn down the heat you must be very quick and constantly stir them until they are completely dried. We used chopsticks to stir.
*These coconuts are not too young or too old. Avoid buying any coconuts that are dried and brown since the meat will be too tough. These old coconuts are usually good for extracting for the milk. Honestly I am not sure where you can buy these type of coconuts in the United States...unless you grow your own or know someone who grow them.
*You can extract pandan leaves for the green color if interested instead of using fruit coloring. You may purchase pandan leaves in the freezer section of some Asian markets.
*I prefer to leave the dried pandan leaves in the finished product for interest. Some people remove them after the candies are done.

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