Text and images by Sheere Ng @ Makansutra
Sea coconuts have black husks
Most will not fall in love with it on first sight as it looks suspiciously like brown worms. But, because of its sweet flavour and half-crunchy-half-jelly like texture, it is one of the most popular local dessert toppings.
We are talking about sea coconut. For those casual fans of the fruit and those who don’t know what it is – sea coconuts do not come from the sea.
Sea coconuts that are found in Singapore are fruit of sugar palm (Borassus Flabellifer) mostly from Thailand. It has a black husk that carries three sockets of oval jelly seeds inside. Peeling off the thin beige skin reveals the sweet, pale-white, semi-translucent jelly – an unusual texture, we think, to posses naturally. The name “sea coconut” came about perhaps because their seeds were once believed to be dispersed by the sea.
Why is it different from what we see in our desserts?
The strips of brown that we see in desserts such as grass jelly and ice longan are the processed version. Fresh sea coconut (occasionally available from neighbourhood supermarkets) are cut into strips and then boiled in dried longan water, hence the colour.
The Borassus Flabellifer variety is often confused with Africa sea coconut, also known as Coco de Mer (Lodoicea Maldivica), which is commonly used in Chinese medicine to treat cough.