So…I bought this coconut…
After reading all the recipes from Tonga, I thought I needed to buy one. Turns out, what I could find packaged and canned was fine enough. That’s great, but now what do I do with this coconut?
I supposed since I need desiccated (dried) coconut for the banana dumplings, I’d make my own. Since Chicago was pretty much on lockdown tonight due to impending storms, forcing me to give up on yoga for the evening, I figured there was no time like the present to crack this nut, pun intended.
My parents used to buy coconuts as a kid. What for, I have no clue, since the coconut meat itself isn’t all that flavorful. Next time I get mom on the phone I’ll have to ask. Cracking them is quite a laborious process and since I’ve cracked on by myself, like, never, I found this handy dandy website to take me through the process step by step. Rather than re-detailing it out for you I’ll provide a quick and dirty using pictures.
Prehead the oven to 350F. Using a hammer and nail or a drill (seriously), make a hole in the coconut and drain the juice.
Bake the coconut for about 20 minutes. Wrap the coconut in a towel and beat the hell out of it with a hammer until it cracks.
Reduce the oven temp to 250. After peeling the brown part off of the white part, place in a food processor and grind until fine.
Now, for the dumplings.
I couldn’t really find a history or reason behind why this was a popular Tongan dish, but I gather it’s because the recipe is simple and uses local flavors, so I’m going to go with that.
There are three steps to this really: 1) Make the syrup 2) make the dumplings 3) fry the dumplings, so here we go.
Recipe courtesy of He Needs Food
Makes about 9 dumplings
For the syrup:
½ cup sugar
About 2 TB coconut cream
For the dumplings:
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 TB desiccated coconut
1 ripe banana, mashed (about 1/3 cup)
1 TB sugar
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup water
1/3 cup desiccated coconut, extra, to coat
1 TB butter, to coat
For the syrup:
Put the sugar into a small saucepan over low heat and allow it to slowly dissolve. Before it boils add the coconut cream and stir until it is thick. Set aside.
For the dumplings
1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
2. In the meantime combine the flour, baking powder, 1/3 cup dessicated coconut, banana and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Bring all ingredients together and gradually add the water to form a fairly dry dough.
3. Using an ice cream or cookie scoop, drop the dough into the pot of simmering water, making sure they don’t stick to the bottom by creating a whirlpool with the water. Gently boil the dumplings for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Drain and set aside.
4. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the extra 1/3 cup coconut and stir until lightly golden. Drop in the dumplings to coat well. Remove carefully and serve with the coconut syrup.
I was all set to do this right, and at the conclusion when I went to link back to the man who needs food, I realized my fatal flaw- the syrup. His recipe is really just a caramel recipe that uses coconut cream rather than heavy cream. I’m not sure why, but I got it in my head to reduce the coconut milk that I had drained as the base of the syrup. Oops. That definitely made it a different beast.
However, dumplings standing alone, they were nothing spectacular. The dough tasted a lot like banana bread dough and so, for kicks, I threw some mini chocolate chips into half of the dumpling batter to try it out. Again, nothing mind blowing. I suspect that, even if I had made the syrup correctly (like I described above), the dish would have been some spectacular coconut caramel with only okay dumplings. I think it has to do with the boiling…a better way to do this would maybe just straight up deep fry the dough, ending up with something akin to banana doughnut holes. With so many other wonderful desserts that I’ve made thus far, I’m not sure I’d remake this, but I WILL try the syrup correctly next time. Maybe atop some banana bread pudding…