Nata de coco (or coconut gel) is a sweet, chewy jelly-like substance made from fermented coconut water. Originally from the Philippines, it has gained popularity as an ingredient in desserts and drinks worldwide.
What does nata de coco taste like?
Nata de coco has a unique chewy texture and a mild, slightly acidic flavor in its raw form. However, the nata de coco sold in supermarkets is typically cooked and sweetened with sugar or fruit juice, making it perfect for desserts and beverages.
Is nata de coco healthy?
According to Wikipedia, nata de coco is primarily derived from coconut water, making it a low-calorie dessert with dietary fiber that supports digestion. It is often considered a healthier choice compared to other desserts.
While it's not a significant source of nutrients, it does contain probiotics that can promote gut health, as highlighted by The Straits Times.
However, nata de coco is often sweetened and packed in sugary syrup, so it's best to consume it in moderation. Check the ingredients to ensure it meets your dietary needs.
How is nata de coco made?
Nata de coco is produced through fermentation with bacterial cultures, transforming the coconut water into a pale white, almost see-through substance with a unique texture. The process typically involves the following steps:
- Coconut water is harvested and filtered to remove impurities.
- A bacterial culture, like acetobacter xylinum, is added to coconut water to begin fermentation.
- The mixture is fermented for several days, converting the natural or added sugars in the coconut water into a gel-like substance.
- Excess liquid and any remaining impurities are removed from the mixture.
- The resulting gel is cut into cubes or other shapes.
- The cubes are rinsed with water to remove any residual bacteria.
- Nata de coco is stored in a liquid solution to keep it moist and preserve its texture, or cooked with sugar and other fruit juices.
Where to buy
Nata de coco is available in Asian grocery stores. It comes in jars, pre-cooked, sweetened, and soaked in syrup to maintain its moisture and preserve its texture.
You can find it in plain or flavored varieties, such as pandan, mango, or lychee. Raw and unsweetened nata de coco is also available in Philippine supermarkets.
How to store
Store unopened nata de coco in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. Once opened, refrigerate in its original container and cover tightly. Consume within 2 weeks and use a clean utensil to avoid contamination.
Freezing is not recommended, as it can alter the texture and taste. Always check the expiration date for freshness.
Filipino recipes with nata de coco
Nata de coco is a delicious treat on its own and a popular ingredient in desserts and beverages. Here are some examples:
- Buko Salad: A sweet and creamy fruit salad that includes buko (young coconut), nata de coco, and a variety of fruits (or canned fruit cocktail).
- Fruit Salad: A sweet and creamy fruit salad that includes a medley of canned and/or fresh fruits and nata de coco.
- Mango Sago: A creamy dessert with mangoes, sago, and sometimes nata de coco. It has a creamy sauce made with half-and-half or coconut milk and condensed milk.
- Buko Pandan Salad: A creamy dessert made with buko, pandan-infused gulaman, sago, and sometimes nata de coco.
- Halo-Halo: A shaved ice dessert with Ube Halaya, agar-agar, sago, sweet corn, sweetened beans, and fruits (jackfruit, macapuno, mangoes, or saba bananas). It is topped with pinipig, ice cream, Leche Flan, and evaporated milk.
- Samalamig or Palamig: A collective term for sweet beverages sold by street vendors in the Philippines. These are iced drinks made with fruit juices and ingredients like gulaman, sago, nata de coco, coconut strips, or bits of fruit.
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