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   By Ruth Cao 文:曹蓉  The Fragrance of Coconut 舌尖上的 椰香 Widely regarded as a magical ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisines, the coconut lights up the food paradise of Nanyang. 椰子堪称东南亚料理的精灵,点亮南洋美食天堂。 Ihad the chance to try the Pandan Gula Melaka Cake recently and was completely mesmerised by the coconut fragrance. The combination of pandan leaves and Gula Melaka, both quintessential ingredients in Southeast Asia cooking, is sublime and intoxicating. Made by boiling the sap from the flower buds of a coconut tree, Gula Melaka possesses rich flavour and is the soul of the Nyonya cakes despite its deceptively plain look. Though it may cost slightly more than cane sugar, Gula Melaka is actually good value as it is mainly handmade and is all-natural and healthy. In addition to making Gula Melaka, coconut flower buds can also be used to make wine. In fact, the great Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo once praised Hainan’s coconut wine as a true delicacy. The abundant coconut trees in Southeast Asia are truly culinary treasures. Every part of the coconut tree can be put to good use. Besides the thirst-quenching coconut water, the flesh of the fruit can be shredded and sprinkled on Nyonya desserts to add another layer of flavour. The white flesh can also made into coconut milk, an essential ingredient that can be used in making curry, or transformed into laksa, a spicy coconut milk-based noodle soup popular in Singapore and Malaysia. Coconut milk can also be added to rice to create the fragrant Nasi Lemak, another popular dish in both countries. The coconut oil that is extracted from coconut meat is used in cooking or made into soap and other beauty products. If you relish the rich flavours of dishes made with coconut, why not challenge yourself to make various coconut-based desserts at home? (Translated by Shawn Pang) 38 - popularnews 139 

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