Coconuts are packed with health benefits, and we’re big fans of rehydrating with coconut water thanks to its abundance of electrolytes. But when it comes to cooking with coconut, we prefer a concentrated coconut juice, available from Asian food stores and coming soon to major supermarkets.
Not to be confused with creamy coconut milk (which is made from the flesh of the coconut), coconut juice is a clear liquid from the centre of a young green coconut. While coconut water is designed for drinking, coconut cooking juice is more viscous and sweeter, and may contain added sugar.
A popular ingredient in Vietnam, coconut cooking juice adds sweetness, nutty complexity and a delicate coconut flavour to a range of dishes, from braised pork to caramelized fish. Some brands of coconut juice also contain coconut pulp for added texture.
This versatile liquor can be used as a tenderizer, helping to break down the protein in tougher cuts of meat, such as pork belly or skirt steak. Marinate the meat in the coconut cooking juice, or add it to a braising liquid.
Showcasing the Chinese influence on Vietnamese cuisine, this Vietnamese-style braised pork recipe is a classic combination of pork belly and hard-boiled eggs seasoned with garlic, fish sauce, sugar and soy. The braising liquid is a surprising combination of coconut cooking juice and soda water, which helps to tenderize the pork belly as it stews for 1-2 hours.
Thanks to the higher sugar content, coconut cooking juice is ideal for caramelizing, such as Vietnamese caramelised fish, a sticky, rich dish with a luscious sauce and a fresh-tasting sweetness. For an authentic taste of Vietnam, learn about the ancient art of cooking in a claypot.
Coconut cooking juice adds moisture and sweetness to Vietnamese stir-fries, too, such as this recipe for lemongrass chilli chicken. Rather than marinate the chicken in the coconut juice, you can add the juice to the pan after you’ve browned the chicken, then cover and allow to simmer until the liquid has reduced slightly.
For more coconut cooking inspiration, discover six ways to cook with coconut, including cream, milk and coconut sugar.
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