Times are exciting with food. Technology has allowed for more processing, more packaging, more import and export, and allowing everyone to enjoy food in its most convenient forms. Sometimes though, this trend can be at the expense of foods made lovingly by hand being less available.
I’ve noticed this with Malaysian Coconut Candy. My mum would buy this frequently at the local market for my siblings and I as a treat to enjoy after school. I’d be popping these little cubes of coconut greatness into my mouth whilst watching cartoons on TV at 4pm.
These days, the only time I see Coconut Candy being available is during Deepavali, or in areas with predominant Malaysian Indian communities, like Masjid Jamek or Brickfields.
Coconut candy is often made with condensed milk, evaporated milk and butter, so I’ve thoroughly enjoyed recreating these without any dairy products. They taste pretty much the same as I remember them to be: moist, fudgy and full of bite.
The most common colours for coconut candy are pink and green. My variation uses two types of all-natural colouring.
The first is from fresh Pandan leaves. It’s not difficult to make your own pandan extract at all. It just needs a blender, a strainer, some leaves, some water, and some waiting time. I learned how to do this from my older sister Melanie, who’s a make-from-scratch baking maestro.
I’ve included Pandan Extract as a separate recipe below. It’s so worth making it by yourself. The taste is much fresher and more aromatic than the factory-made ones. It lends a gorgeous pastel green hue to your dishes too. Make this the day before your coconut candy escapade.
The second all-natural colour in this recipe is Beetroot Powder. And don’t worry, you won’t taste any beetroot in this dessert! Beetroot powder has been a staple product in my pantry for years, and not just as a natural food colouring. It’s also a supplement I drink first thing in the morning to power me up for long, busy days. The only homegrown company I know of who is distributing this on a commercial scale is Organicule. I happen to be one of their Brand Ambassadors! You can order raw organic Beetroot Powder from their website. Feel free to use my promo code DAVINA10 to enjoy 10% off your order upon checkout. They ship to Malaysia and Singapore.
To replace condensed milk, we’ll be using coconut cream from a carton, plus some sugar and tapioca flour. My favourite coconut cream brand to use for all desserts (including my crowd favourite Coconut Ice Cream) is Kara, as I find it to be the richest. BTW I’m not an ambassador of theirs. Not yet anyway. (HI KARA ARE YOU READING THIS? *waves frantically*) If you only have coconut cream available to you in a can, you can also use that. Adjust your cooking time accordingly to get this kind of thick, starchy consistency.
It’s important in this recipe to use coconut that has been grated FRESH. You can get this as most Malaysian wet markets. Dessicated coconut (Left in the photo), which you can buy at the supermarket or baking supply shop, will be too dry. Freshly grated coconut (Right) will contain the dampness that we need to create this moist, soft dessert.
If you only have access to dessicated coconut, it’s advised that you add around 1/2 cup of non-dairy milk to the recipe to re-hydrate it. This will definitely affect the cooking time, and perhaps extend it by double. For this option, cook for as long as you need to to achieve the same end consistency.
If you don’t mind artificial colouring, feel free to replace both Pandan Essence and Beetroot Powder with Green and Red Food Colouring, and use 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla paste or essence to the grated coconut once it goes into your pan. If aesthetics is not important to you and you just want to get some coconut awesomeness in your belly pronto, you can skip all the colouring steps and just add the vanilla essence.
If you’re going for the natural colours, Holy Toledo, you’re in for something special.
These densely packed sweet treats are reminiscent of fudge squares and I’m sure have their roots in Coconut Burfi from India. What does this veganised Coconut Candy taste like? Like the inside of a Bounty Bar, but with more melt-in-your-mouth action thanks to the thickened coconut cream.
As with all recipes that use fresh coconut products, the lifespan is very short. This candy will keep up to 3 days in the fridge…
… if they even last that long!
Wishing all of my Hindu friends a safe, joyous time with loved ones this Diwali.
Malaysian Coconut Candy
A non-dairy version of a classic Malaysian Indian dessert, this fudge-like sweet treat is bursting with milky coconut flavour and brings back memories of simpler days.
- 2 1/2 cups freshly grated coconut
- 1 cup thick coconut milk from carton or can
- 1 tsp tapioca starch
- 3 tbsp brown sugar plus 1 tbsp for cooking with coconut
- 1 tsbp virgin coconut oil
- 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt
- 1 tsp beetroot powder mixed with 1 tbsp water
- 4 tsp Homemade Pandan Essence (refer to additional recipe)
- 1/4 tsp vanilla paste (optional)
- Step 1 Line a medium-sized square container with baking paper. Set aside.
- Step 2 In a large non-stick cooking pan, pour in coconut milk and stir in tapioca starch, 3 tbsp sugar and salt.
- Step 3 Turn on stove to medium high heat and cook milk for 10 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden ladle, until a thick, starchy mixture is obtained. You should be able to see the bottom of the pan for a few seconds when you swipe your ladle across the mixture.
- Step 4 Add grated coconut, coconut oil and 1 tbsp sugar. Stir around for 10 minutes until mixture becomes lumpy and starts to stick to the ladle in noticeable amounts.
- Step 5 Remove half of the mixture and set aside.
- Step 6 Add Pandan Essence to pan. Stir until evenly combined over low-medium heat for up to 5 minutes,
- Step 7 Remove pandan batch from pan, and transfer it to one side of the lined square container.
- Step 8 If you need to remove burnt residue from bottom of the pan, heat up a little bit of water in it and use the ladle to help loosen up residue. Discard water and loosened residue.
- Step 9 Now place the un-coloured batch of coconut mixture into the pan, together with beetroot powder and optional vanilla essence.
- Step 10 Stir until evenly combined for 3-4 minutes, until the same lumpy consistency returns.
- Step 11 Turn off heat. Transfer pink mixture to the opposite unused side of the line square container.
- Step 12 Using a clean ladle, compress the green mixture down onto the bottom and any corner it covers. Feel free to use your hands, and only if mixture is cool enough to the touch. Create a layer about 2cm thick.
- Step 13 Repeat with pink mixture on the other side.
- Step 14 With a knife, cut lines halfway down into the mixtures to create 2x2cm squares.
- Step 15 Cover with baking paper or container lid and leave in the fridge to harden for 2-3 hours.
- Step 16 Once ready, transfer mixtures onto a chopping board, cut squares fully to create cubes of candy.
- Step 17 Serve immediately or store in fridge for up to 3 days.
Homemade Pandan Essence
- 3-4 Pandan Leaves (25g), cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup water
- Step 1 Blend all ingredients in a blender until a puree is formed.
- Step 2 Transfer puree into a mesh strainer or cheesecloth, and remove all pulp from liquid. Collect juice in a small glass jar.
- Step 3 Discard pulp.
- Step 4 Leave jar on table top undisturbed for 3-4 hours.
- Step 5 After this, you should be able to see a clear separation of juice: translucent layer on top, and thin opaque dark green layer at the bottom. This bottom layer is what we’re looking for.
- Step 6 Very slowly, pour out as much of the translucent layer as possible into a small second jar. The moment you see parts of the opaque layer reaching the mouth of the first jar, stop.
- Step 7 Leave both jars on the table for about 15 minutes. The opaque layer will settle again to the bottom of the first jar.
- Step 8 Repeat step of transferring translucent layer out into the second jar. You don’t need to be precise, just transfer as much as possible.
- Step 9 Keep the opaque layer as Pandan Essence. It is generally enough to use for 1 recipe. Keep any leftover in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for longer storage.
- Step 10 The transclucent layer is mild Pandan Essence. It can be added to the water that you use to cook rice with, or added to cake mixtures. It can also be stored in the fridge or freezer.