Coconut and Thai basil stir fry

Coconut and Thai basil stir fry

This coconut and Thai basil stir fry is a reminder of just how versatile the humble coconut can be!

I have long used coconut for wet south Asian curries but it was after coming across Rick Stein’s India: in search of the perfect curry that I started using fresh coconut in dry dishes. In this fabulous book he gives a recipe for Thoran, a dry South Indian dish of stir fried vegetables and coconut which I ate a lot of when I was in Kerala a few years back but had somehow totally forgotten about. As long you don’t chop the coconut too small the flesh will remain moist and crunchy adding an amazing freshness and texture to any stir fry.

In the notes below I describe how to prepare a coconut from scratch. If you haven’t done this before I recommend it for entertainment value, if nothing else. However, there is no denying that preparing a coconut is a bit of a faff and it is far easier to buy a little pot of fresh coconut chunks from the chilled fruit section in the supermarket.

N.B. Thai basil has a much more delicate flavour than its more mainstream counterpart. If using standard basil, halve the amount and chop the leaves rather than leaving whole.



Coconut and Thai basil stir fry
Serves: 2
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 lemon grass stalk, hard outer layers removed, white section very finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, skin scraped off, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 6 spring onions, shredded
  • 1 large red pepper, cored and cut into chunks
  • 100g sugar snap peas, topped and tailed
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds
  • 90g fresh coconut (chunks are fine), roughly chopped or blitzed in the food processor
  • 40 Thai basil leaves
  • Salt for seasoning
  1. Heat the coconut oil in a wok or large frying pan on a medium-high. Add the lemongrass, chilli, ginger and spring onion and cook for 1 minute stirring to prevent burning. Throw in the peppers and sugar snap peas and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the nigella seeds and coconut pieces and cook for a further 2 minutes. Take off the heat and stir through the Thai basil leaves. Season with a little salt. Serve with rice noodles.
Here is a description of how to prepare a coconut from scratch. To begin, preheat the oven to 180C. Pull away the tufty, hairy bit from the top of the coconut and you’ll see three indented circles. Using a knitting needle/skewer/chopstick poke the holes. One will be soft allowing you to pierce all the way through. Give the skewer a wiggle to ensure a clear hole and then turn the coconut upside down over a bowl allowing the coconut water to pour out. Drink slightly dirty looking coconut water and feel wholesome. Pop the coconut in the oven on the top shelf and leave for around 40 minutes. When you take out the coconut the shell should have some fairly hefty cracks in it. Next, you need to whack the coconut with a hammer further breaking up the hard shell. You should only need a few hits before the shell cracks enough to be removed (Figs and Fennel do not take any responsibility for fingers lost or damaged in this process). The coconut flesh will probably break but providing the shell is suitably cracked you should be able to keep breakage down to 2 or 3 pieces (I have only once managed to do this without break the flesh at all). What you will have then is the coconut flesh with a thin layer of dark skin. This skin tastes fine but if you don’t want the added colour or texture you can just peel the skin off with standard vegetable peeler. A single coconut will yield far more flesh than you need for this recipe but the flesh freezes well giving you a ready supply for future recipes.





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