'You had a coconut scraper, which was a low stool which had a neck on it and inthe neck was a metal cylinder, a circular piece attached with tiny little teeth in it in a circle.'
Charmaine Solomons in conversation with me in 2005
You need a coconut scraper to make what is called in recipes here 'grated' coconut. You need grated coconut itself in mallungs, pol sambol, sometimes as a thickener in curries, and of course to make coconut milk, the main liquid ingredient in many Sri Lankan curries.
You can buy the kind of scraper Charmaine talks about in Sri Lankan providores in Australia. You use it by sitting sort of side saddle on the very low bench, and scraping a halved coconut against the teeth of the circular metal piece, turning the coconut as you do.
Me, I'm way too old and arthritic to get down and up from that level (okay, so maybe I wouldn't have got so arthritic if I'd gone down and up more often on the damned thing!); and I have a horror of my hands slipping and ending up with bits of scraped flesh and blood in the grated coconut.
So I use the new-fangled (well, in terms of cooking equipment in Sri Lanka anything around 50 years old is new) bench top rotary scraper like in the picture. The principle is the same here. You halve your coconut and hold the fleshy side against the toothed blades. You turn the crank to turn the blades, pressing the coconut flesh against the blades at the same time, and turning the coconut around to make sure ass much as you can is scraped.
The kind of bench top one I use, as you can see, is one that screws onto a ledge on a bench. You can get ones that sit on top of a bench using a sort of vacuum foot to hold the thing in place. In my experience, these often up themselves and fly off the bench top and get coconut everywhere.
You scrape the coconut until you get near to hitting the inside of the shell. It doesnt' matter if you get a little of that scraped in too, or some of the fibre that is on the outside of the shell-it gives lovely flecks of colour to a sambol and is terrific roughage, but don't overdo it.
If you don't have a scraper, you can use a knife and carefully cut pieces of the coconut flesh out of the shell and then grate them. To cut the flesh, use a sharp knife and cut into the flesh till you hit the shell. Make cuts to form an oblong or triangular chunk. Now lever the flesh away from the shell using the knife. If the coconut is good and ripe it will life off relatively easily.
Copyright (C) 2007 Paul van Reyk
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