Nuts about Coconut

The Coconut Club in Singapore uses myriad ways to promote the humble coconut on the global culinary trail
A sumptious coconut influenced spread
A sumptious coconut influenced spread

The Coconut Club is a trending restaurant in Singapore, with more than 80 per cent of their food being cooked with coconut milk. Having recently got a mention in the Michelin Guide, the most famous dish here is ‘Nasi Lemak’ – fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and Pandan.At a recent tasting at The Leela, where The Coconut Club had done a pop-up for two days, we did taste some new innovations and of course old favourites.

We started with Kueh Pie Tie. This is a crispy tart shell filled with cabbage, dried shrimps and crab. In Singapore they also use pork as a filling but here dried cuttlefish was used, as a substitute. The shrimps and the crab imparted their own flavours here, which though subtle in their own ways, did manage to leave a mark. This was followed by Sate Ayam Bumbu Kacang, a variation of the chicken satay with red onions and cucumber, but with a peanut sauce that was much thicker than the normal peanut sauce used in a satay. The taste was slightly different, given the peanut sauce was different and red onions did bring a greater crunch, though the cucumber seemed a little out of place here. Overall, a pleasant variation to the traditional chicken satay. The plate also had Bakwan Jagung, simply deep-fried corn fritters with a tomato sambal.

Fried chicken, a speciality to go with Nasi lemak
Fried chicken, a speciality to go with Nasi lemak

The first course was Fruit Rojak. This had a number of fruits as the name suggested in a ‘heritage sauce’ that tasted more like a shrimp sauce. Though I must say that it did give a very interesting tangy twist to the normal taste of fruit. Following this was the Itek Tim, a Nyonya salted vegetable soup with duck and featuring sour plum and tomatoes. It had a very Umami taste, and definitely one to have when you have a bad cold – a comfort food. Next came the main course – Nasi Lemak, rice cooked in coconut milk and condiments. The flavour of coconut milk really shone through with its subtlety and could be eaten entirely by itself without the need for any accompaniments but Chef suggested a portion of Ayam Goreng Berempah, a fried chicken spiced with traditional ingredients. Must say here that it did have a very different taste profile to normal fried chicken, and gave perfect company to the Nasi Lemak.

Next came an interesting vegetable dish – Terung Asam Manis. This is basically eggplant fried in The Coconut Club’s special sauce with gula melaka (palm sugar) and coconut milk. A very interesting taste profile, it had a lot of similarities with the way we prepare eggplant in India. Then came another star dish, Sambal Udang Petai, grilled king prawns with Sambal Titek and Petai beans. The masala on top was tangy and played with the front taste buds of your tongue, so it tasted hot and sweetish at the same time. It did impart a lovely flavour to the meat of the king prawns, something I would not mind trying again.

The king prawns with Sambal masala
The king prawns with Sambal masala

Finally it was time for dessert, and first on was Apom Berkuah with Pengat Pisang. This was a fermented rice pancake with coconut milk, blue pea flower, banana and vanilla ice cream. It had a very interesting texture and the palm sugar added that hint of sweetness – the total dessert itself had a lot of sweetness! Also on offer was an assortment of Kueh (rice cakes) – I found the most tasty one to be Kueh Salat, pressed rice cake with coconut egg custard. Also liked the Kueh Bingka, made with cassava and coconut milk.

All in all, this was an impressive take on what all you can do with the humble coconut and Chef Daniel Sia has certain cast his spell on food that is a gastronomic delight. Supporting this initiative was the Singapore Tourism Board, which said “Singapore's obsession for myriad tastes is reflected not only in its colourful dining and nightlife landscape, but also in the indefatigable passion Singaporeans have for food. Indian travellers, over the years, have increasingly been drawn to Singapore's culinary scene and indulging in their own food passions in the city,” said GB Srithar, Regional Director, India, Middle East & South Asia - Singapore Tourism Board.

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