Roasted coconuts at Quan Ut Ut, Ho Chi Minh City. By Natasha Hong.
What is it? Like the heads of bald men with painfully bad tans, these are the cooked coconuts served at Quan Ut Ut, a chain of American barbecue joints wildly popular with the Viet set in Ho Chi Minh City.
How is it made? At Quan Ut Ut, even the spent coals from a barbecue dinner shift don’t get a break. Co-owner Tim Scott said that on a whim, the team decided to throw coconuts into the dying embers of their pits, “Just to see what would happen.” The coconuts stew in the waning heat for over 12 hours, till the chefs dust them off in the morning for the day’s service.
What does it taste like? Like dessert in a drink. To accompany the punchy flavours of Viet-angled ribs and rubs, the gentle heat seems to curiously enhance the creamy texture of fresh juice with the deep sweetness of gula melaka-like palm sugar and an added breath of smoke. The white coconut meat inside retains its colour, so it’s hard to say if Maillard’s had a hand in the transformation. Fuller-bodied and sweeter than its fresh-hacked counterparts, we can see this as the next-level upgrade for a tiki drink – take notes and find yourself a pitmaster to collaborate with.