In the tropics, the coconut tree has often been called “king of the trees”. The tree, known in Malay as pokok kelapa, not only provides shade, but also has different uses at different stages of its growth.
People of the tropics know that the juice of the young coconut makes a refreshing drink. It also has a medicinal use. When given to a child afflicted with chicken pox, it is believed to lessen the ‘heatiness’ of the body.
When the coconut ripens, the flesh is grated, mixed with water, and squeezed to obtain its milk called santan in Malay. Santan is to the Malay cook what soy sauce is to his Chinese counterpart. It is a base for cooking different types of curries and gravies, as well as for desserts, usually sweetened with palm sugar.
After the coconut gratings were squuezed for santan, we fed them to the family hens.
- excepted from my book Kampung Memories, a semi-memoir of childhood memories and Malay culture.