Some senior folks may remember the pre-machine days, when we had to use a manual scraper to forcibly “evict” coconut meat in strips and bits from its tempurong encasement. “Easy does it”, you may say.
Next, if we wanted coconut milk from the scrapings (nowadays we call them “grated” coconut), we would put several scoops into a piece of tough cloth (in those days, usually from flour sacks) and, then bundle them up and use raw muscle power to twist and “perah” the package.
With hands firmly gripping two ends of the package, a powerful twisting action was applied and, out flowed that white, delectable and lemak santan. “Squeezy does it” !
A tribute here to womenfolk of those days, whose hands were often roughened and toughened by work such as this. I was glad to have helped my mum.
note: “perah” means “squeeze” in Malay language. “santan” means coconut milk
The attap house of my youth “squatted” in the midst of a coconut plantation, surrounded left, right, front and back by flora of the towering kind.
Once a month or so, teams of climbers came round to harvest the nuts. Unlike the learned academic* who was brainy and chubby, these professionals were invariably brawny albeit skinny and could out-climb a monkey.
A kind of sarong-like cloth was bundled into a rope-like configuration and used as a tensioner between their two feet. That was all they needed to zip all the way up to the top where the nuts beckoned, “Come, get me !”
Of course, those plucky pros had to get picky. Only the mature nuts got to be man-handled — they would plucked and dropped to the ground, to be collected and sent for ripping apart.
* referring to the movie, “The Nutty Professor”
Back in those days of the 50s and 60s, we kids had a lot of time to be just kids. Though we had very few factory-made toys, that did not stop us from having a good time. We laid our hands and feet on whatever that were available and made them entertain us.
Coconuts were plentiful in my kampong as my house was in the midst of a coconut plantation.
So, one of the favourite pastimes was to put a coarse string through two-halves of tempurung and then we stepped on the inverted coconut shells and walked with them. The string had to be pulled up and gripped between the big toes and the 2nd toes, like how one wore a Japanese slipper. Klok-klok-klok….
Well, in a nutshell, we had great fun on a nutshell !
Gardenia’s tagline must have been inspired by this old-time delicacy, LOLX. Yummy ! Well, I wonder how many of the younger folks out there know what these are !
Not sure what they are called in English, but in Malay they are known as ‘tombong’, a term which the Hokkiens in Penang use very freely and naturally.
I think they are the embryos of coconuts. Found only in mature nuts, they range in size from as small as grapes to as big as completely filling the chamber inside, depending on age. The small ones are sweet and crunchy, the big ones spongy. The best ones are slightly smaller than a tennis ball.
These are rarely seen nowadays, because few people sell or buy mature coconuts other than in processed form.
Coconuts have featured very prominently in our culinary temptations since time immemorial, especially for folks like me who lived my childhood in a kampong well-endowed with coconut trees.
In those days, we did not have the fearsome machines which could tear apart anything into smithereens within seconds — instead we used a simple manual scraper, usually attached to a wooden “bangku”-like body. There were many different styles to the design, some even had X-rated (oops, I mean to say X-shaped) bodies, but all required careful and patient repetitive hand action.
The coconuts were de-husked first, and then using a heavy knife, the hard shell was cracked in two with a sharp, smart strike. The water was drained, and then the half nuts were ready for the scraping process.