This popular natural tropical ingredient plays an important role in many of Thailand’s most delectable dishes that use coconut to infuse an array of sweet and savoury influences.
Coconuts are grown in abundance in Thailand
For most people, a quintessential tropical scene requires a few key highlights and these often include sandy beaches, gleaming blue seas and swaying coconut palms. As well as completing this idyllic exotic picture, coconut trees produce one of the most versatile ingredients you’ll find in any Thai kitchen. IN fact, the humble coconut – which is grown in abundance in Thailand – plays an important role in many of the nation’s favourite dishes.
From creamy soups and curries to sweet, indulgent desserts, coconuts are a common feature the Kingdom’s eclectic culinary repertoire. As well as adding a sweet infusion to an array of recipes, coconut can be used to bring an irresistibly creamy texture to the dish. Coconut also comes with a host of health benefits and it is celebrated as one of the world’s most nutritious superfoods.
We round up a selection of our favourite coconut-infused Thai dishes to get your taste buds tingling.
Tempt your taste buds
Coconut milk forms the creamy base of this aromatic chicken soup
No matter which part of Thailand you’re heading to on holiday, there’s a selection of sumptuous dishes you shouldn’t leave the country without trying. Tom Kha Gai is one of those dishes. This glorious chicken and galangal soup zings with tropical flavour – and guess what the creamy base is? Coconut milk of course. The rich texture of the coconut milk provides the perfect complement to the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf and galangal broth to make for an irresistibly rich taste experience.
Ever wondered what gives tender Thai pork satay (Moo Satay) its unique, flavoursome twist? Once again, the answer is coconut. This sublime snack is eaten throughout Southeast Asia, and you’ll notice variations in taste from country to country. In Thailand, before the grilling process begins, the pork is marinated in turmeric and coconut milk to imbue the meat with its irresistible flavour. The marinade also ensures that the meat remains tender once its grilled. The finished satay is served alongside peanut dipping sauce, pickled cucumber and onion.
Khao Yam – rice salad – is another favourite coconut-themed dish in Thailand and a delicious alternative to traditional fried rice. The grains are mixed with a concoction of Thai spices, before being topped with toasted coconut flakes, beansprouts and sliced beans.
Dishes of desire
Hor Mok Ma Prow Awn is a fragrant seafood curry often served in a hollow coconut
If you’re a fan of Thai cuisine then you’re probably already aware that coconut milk is the key ingredient used to create the creamy texture of many curries. But what about the Kingdom’s other spicy main course offerings? Thanks to its sensationally sweet kick, Geng Panang is another classic local favourite. The delectable curry sauce has a slightly nutty flavour, and is significantly thicker than that of a green or red curry. The coconut milk base also brings a beautifully sweet infusion. If you’re already a fan of Thailand’s coconut based curries, Hor Mok Ma Prow Awn is the ultimate coconut treat. It’s made from an irresistible assortment of fresh seafood that often includes squid, prawn and white fish. The seafood simmers in a coconut milk sauce with an array of spices to cook, before being stuffed into a hollowed-out coconut shell when it’s served.
For real Asian food aficionados, Khanom Jeen Nam Ya Kati is a coconut milk curry served over rice noodles, and a delightful choice if you’re in the mood for a coconut-infused main course. This dish comprises soft rice noodles, alongside a coconut fish curry with fresh, raw vegetables. Khao Soi, northern curry noodles, is another sublime coconut dish. Instead of rice noodles, this one features noodles made from egg topped with a rich coconut sauce and masala curry. The flavours of this dish are inspired by Burmese flavours and accompanied by pickled greens, red onions and a drizzle of lime juice, Heaven.
i-tim maphrao – coconut ice cream – is a refreshing choice for dessert
When it comes to desserts, Thailand’s coconut-themed choices will not disappoint. Mango with sticky rice and coconut cream is perhaps the most famous sweet. Khao niew mamuang, as locals know it, uses the finest, locally grown mangos for a unique tropical, fruity flavour. The mango is served alongside sticky rice and a helping of coconut cream for those who don’t want to miss out on the sweet indulgence.
There are plenty ice cream outlets located across Thailand. However, many visitors in the mood for something a little more authentic will opt for an icy bowl of i-dtim ma phrao. This gorgeous ice cream is made with coconut milk rather than cow’s milk. Sweet and refreshing when served on its own, many people sprinkle kernels of boiled corn on top for a little extra crunch. Mobile ice cream vendors can be found throughout Thai towns on islands like Phuket and Koh Samui. Finally, for something hot and sweet, we recommend khanom bing. This dish consists of sticky rice that’s cooked slowly in coconut milk and sugar before being moulded around chunks of banana. Its then wrapped up in sheets of banana leaf and grilled on the barbecue. The result is a delectable Thai dessert that’s sweet and crispy on the outside – warm and soft inside.
As well as being delicious, coconuts come with a host of health benefits
Available in a plethora of forms, from cream and milk to oil and flesh, coconuts come with plenty of health benefits. Young coconuts – the green variety you’ll see on sale throughout Thailand – are even more nutritious then the brown variety you’re more likely to recognise in the west. Coconuts are excellent for the immune system thanks to their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. They’re also packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals to aid the digestion process. These wonderful orbs of goodness also boost skin health by providing sun protection and preventing wrinkles.
For a morning smoothie for breakfast in your private villa, check out our recipe ideas.
- Packed with natural electrolytes, coconut water is an excellent base for a hydrating morning smoothie. Blend with banana, spinach and strawberry for an effective hangover cure.
- For a creamy, protein-filled treat, blend coconut milk with banana and a generous dollop of nut butter.
- Irresistible tropical fruits grow in abundance across Thailand. For a truly tropical smoothie, blend a small cup of coconut milk with chopped mango, pineapple and passion fruit.