Coconut, gula melaka and sweet potato

Coconut, gula melaka and sweet potato

Green Pickled Peaches
Chris Chen

Ingredients and recipes are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. It’s possible to reconfigure everything to make something that’s both unfamiliar yet familiar. The pieces of this puzzle are the shreds of coconut dressed in gula melaka, moved from their original place as filling in the coconut crescents. The sweet potato hints at a rich sweet soup called bubur cha-cha.

For the sweet potato jelly


Quantity Ingredient
200g orange sweet potato, (or perhaps yellow or purple, on a whim)
500ml coconut milk
50g sugar
2 pandan leaves, bruised and tied into a knot
150ml almond milk, (see note)
60g caster sugar
6g gelatine sheets
55ml thickened cream

For the peanut pastry

Quantity Ingredient
180g plain
50g icing sugar
60g peanuts, roasted
1 teaspoon salt
60ml grapeseed oil

For the steeped coconut

Quantity Ingredient
100g gula melaka
1 pandan leaf, bruised and tied into a knot
1/2 teaspoon tapioca flour
see method for ingredients, grated

For the burnt orange sauce

Quantity Ingredient
3 navel oranges, finely grated zest and juiced
40g caster sugar
25g unsalted butter, softened
75ml pouring cream


  1. Make the sweet potato jelly:
  2. Peel the sweet potato and cut into 3 cm cubes. Combine the coconut milk, sugar and pandan leaves in a saucepan and add the sweet potato. Bring to a very gentle simmer (or the coconut milk will split) and cook with the lid slightly covering the pan for about 15 minutes until the sweet potato is soft. Cool, then discard the pandan leaves. Purée to a fine paste with a blender, then pass through a fine sieve. You will need 300 g of purée. Combine the almond milk and caster sugar in a saucepan and heat until just warmer than body temperature (test by dipping in your finger). Meanwhile, soak the gelatine in cold water until soft. Drain, squeeze out the excess water and stir into the almond milk. Set aside. Beat the cream to soft peaks, then fold the sweet potato purée through. When the almond mixture is cool but not set, fold the sweet potato cream into it. Spread in a shallow tray and refrigerate for about 2 hours until set.
  3. Make the peanut pastry:
  4. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Spread the flour on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 20 minutes or until a sandy gold colour, stirring halfway through. Cool. Grind the icing sugar, peanuts and salt together in a food processor. Add the cooled flour and grind to a rather fine powder. Pour the oil in quickly and combine for a second or so at high speed to give a loose dough. Turn out onto a work bench and knead until smooth. Roll out to a thickness of 1 cm. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1–2 hours. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Break the dough into 16 small shards and place on the tray. Bake for 10 minutes until set and lightly coloured.
  5. Steep the coconut:
  6. Chop up the palm sugar and put in a saucepan with 50 ml water and the pandan leaf. Stir over medium heat until the palm sugar dissolves and the syrup is brownish and fragrant with pandan. Strain, then pour back into the pan. Set aside to cool. Dissolve the tapioca flour in 1 tablespoon of syrup and stir back into the pan. Add the coconut and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and cook for 2–3 minutes. Take off the heat and cool to room temperature before serving.
  7. Make the burnt orange sauce:
  8. Put the orange zest and juice into a non-reactive saucepan. Bring to boiling point and simmer until reduced by half. Meanwhile, make a caramel. Heat the sugar in a heavy-based pan over lowish heat until melted. Continue cooking without stirring until golden. Remove from the heat and gradually add the reduced orange juice, returning the pan to the heat if necessary to facilitate this. Avoid stirring, but tilt the pan so that the caramel and juice swirl together. Cool slightly. Mix in the butter and then the cream. Serve at room temperature.
  9. Assemble the dish:
  10. Place a fragment of pastry on each person’s plate. Add a spoonful of the sweet potato jelly. Garnish with 2 teaspoons of the coconut and drizzle a little of the burnt orange sauce on the plate.

To make almond milk

  • Coarsely grind 250 g of almonds in a food processor. Add 500 ml of filtered water and blend as finely as possible. Leave covered in the fridge overnight to infuse. Strain through fine muslin.
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