My Childhood In A Mouthful
One bite into these fabulous coconut candies and memories of my childhood come flooding back in bright saturated colours. Perhaps it's the bright happy hues of these old-fashioned gems that seep into those memories, or the chewy texture that makes me feel like a kid all over again. Whatever it is, it's really, really good.
Time was when you could find packets of these at almost any mamak* stall or at fun fairs. These days, they are a lot harder to come by, though they can still be found in confectionaries along Little India. I also spied some at Glory Catering on East Coast Road. A fragrant concoction of grated coconut, sugar and milk, cooked to a dense sticky mix, these coconut candies are a doddle to make and last two weeks in an air-tight container or about a month in the fridge -- well worth the effort.
The recipe below has been adapted from Sylvia Tan's Singapore Heritage Food: Yesterday's Recipes For Today's Cook, a great book that summarises some of Singapore's best loved dishes, and a bible for Singaporeans living abroad hungry for a taste of home.
* "Mamak" is a colloquial term that describes Indian Muslims. "Mamak stalls" then are small shops run by Indian muslims selling sweets, drinks, snacks and provisions like canned food, sauces, onions and garlic. In the old days (um, that would be around 1970), mamak stalls were a common sight on the ground floor of apartment buildings in almost every Singaporean housing estate. These days, with supermarkets around every corner, the once ubiquitous mamak stalls are a disappearing sight.
Coconut Candy (Makes 24)
3 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
3 tightly packed cups of grated coconut (skin removed)
1 tbs butter
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
a few drops of food colouring
Butter a wide, shallow tray and set aside. Boil sugar and milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it becomes a thin syrup. Add the butter and coconut, stirring constantly to prevent burning. The mixture is ready when it thickens and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. To test, drop a small piece into cold water. It should harden immediately.
While it is still boiling, add the vanilla essence and salt. Take it off the fire and quickly mix in a few drops of food colouring. If you want to make different colours, have another saucepan (or several other saucepans) ready so you can divide the mixture and then colour them separately.
Spread the mixture over the buttered tray. Cut into pieces while still warm and leave them to harden.