Uyen Luu’s secret ingredient: coconut water squib

The food writer on the depth of flavour this common Vietnamese ingredient adds to sweet and savoury dishes alike

I use coconut water instead of wine, chicken stock or water in curries, stews, braising pots, stir-frys and sauces, and in desserts – jellies, sorbets, rice pudding, smoothies. I also use it to deglaze pans.

Coconut water is common in Vietnamese cooking because there is such an abundance of it. It brings so much depth of flavour, and instead of sugar I can balance sweetness with coconut water, which is good because I don’t want my daughter to eat loads of sweets. You can use it to poach prawns, it makes them utterly delicious. Bring the coconut water to the boil, and drop in your shelled or whole prawns. When you eat them in a salad, you can suck the shell, it’s so sweet and pairs well with the meat of the prawns. That’s a really common dish in Vietnamese restaurants. My cousins are always ordering prawns when I go to Vietnam.

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