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 How to toast coconut and make kerisik

How to toast coconut will be explained in this page. Coconut is used in countless ways in Malay cooking. Thick or thin coconut milk is used in curry, gravy and desserts. Kerisik (grated, toasted coconut) is used to thicken curry and rendang and also used as a condiment in nasi ulam (herbal rice) and nasi kerabu (herbal rice with fish or meat).

Freshly grated coconut is used extensively in Malay cakes and desserts. These delicious "kuih" are made and eaten fresh as breakfast or tea time treats. Freshly grated coconut with roasted minced fish are stuffed into young green chilies and steamed as another condiment to serve with nasi kerabu. My daughter especially, just loves these little tiny cakes with fresh coconut.

Freshly grated coconut
Freshly grated coconut

In modern Malay cooking, desiccated coconuts are used in cookies or as decoration on western style cakes. Pina colada cheesecake is a good example of the use of desiccated coconut for decoration.

In order to toast coconut, it has to be prepared beforehand in a number of steps.

  • Remove the husk of the coconut using an axe, cutlass or a special implement called "chop".
  • Half the coconut shell and drain the liquid.
  • Grate the coconut with a manual or electrical coconut grater.Or, remove the flesh from the shell and use a normal fine tooth kitchen grater, even though this method is very time consuming, it is good for our purpose.

If you have no fresh coconut flesh, canned desiccated coconut is also good for making kerisik but the result will not be as fragrant and tasty as fresh coconut.

toast coconut over very slow fire grated coconut is now crisp brown A bowl of toasted coconut

The method to toast coconut that I will outline below is for making kerisik to thicken the curry or rendang. To toast coconut for nasi kerabu, there is no need to toast it until deep golden brown.

It would suffice just to toast it light brown.

kerisik in pestel and mortar halfway done kerisik

It is a simple and easy process. Yes, you can buy packed kerisik nowadays, but it will not be fresh and sometimes the smell is a bit unpleasant because the coconut oil that is extracted from it has started to decay. So, come and learn with me.

  • I used 2 cups of freshly grated coconut I bought from the wet market (cost me only fifty sen, RM0.50). It will turn into about 3 tablespoons of grounded kerisik.
  • I used a stainless steel wok with heavy base and a Teflon covered turner and very slow fire.
  • It took me just ten minutes to turn the coconut into deep golden brown.
  • Keep on stirring because you want all the portion to be even brown color.
  • After the aroma starts to permeate the whole kitchen, stop and remove the coconut and in order to grind it, you can use an electric dry grinder (the one for grinding spices) or simply use pestel and mortar.

I remember when I was a young girl starting to learn to cook with my mother. She asked me to use the pestel and mortar to make the kerisik. I was about 12 years old at that time. I hated it. It took me forever to turn the coconut paste into the right consistency.

I asked her, "Mom, is this enough?" "Not yet!", came the answer. After about 10 times of yelling to and fro, she was finally satisfied and said: "Yes, this is what you want, you want the oil to come out like this."

Coconut paste or kerisik for curry and rendang
Coconut paste or kerisik for curry and rendang...Phew!

No worries now, it is an enjoyable task. I do not mind making the kerisik because a little of the grinded toasted coconut goes a long way and you can prepare it in bulk and freeze it as well. It is cheap to make also.

Now that you know how to make good kerisik, it is easy for you to make delicious rendang.

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