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.