When we think of adding buko to dishes, we immediately think of dessert, such as the sweet creamy buko pandan, made of coconut strips and pandan jelly, buko pie, or halo-halo.
Eating plant-based and working with raw and vegan chefs in Manila and Hong Kong opened me up to the untapped potential of fresh coconut meat in savory dishes, such as this easy and refreshing salad.
This recipe started with the idea of making vegan kinilaw (ceviche) using coconut meat, a creative and fairly popular vegan hack. I thought of using the brine from our Fermented French Beans and Leeks as vinegar substitute, given it already has lactic sourness. The brine is also made from a porridge that already has ginger, garlic, onion, and green chili–the staple aromatics in Philippine kinilaw.
But I made this recipe in the height of mango season here and I couldn’t resist not adding some. The sweet mangoes along with ripe cherry tomatoes balanced the lactic sourness of the ferment, and I lost the mouth-puckering acidity that kinilaw is known for.
Also, when I combined the brine, which has a distinct funk thanks to the fermentation of the rice porridge, with vegan fish sauce to make the dressing, I ended up with a dish more similar to a Southeast Asian salad rather than kinilaw.
Happily I ended up with this Coconut Mango Salad, a delicious and very versatile dish. Swap sweet pineapple tidbits for the mango cubes. Add cucumber and pomelo. Shred the buko meat instead of cutting it into cubes, then use shredded green mangoes, carrots, and singkamas (jicama). Make a light but filling dish out of it with fried or steamed tofu and blanched togue (beansprouts). Garnish with mint and roasted peanuts. Never have salads been more exciting!
- Flesh of 2 coconuts (malakanin or pang-buko salad), diced
- Flesh from 1 ripe mango, diced
- 1 red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 4 Tbsp of Fermented French Beans and Leeks, cut into small pieces
- 1 bunch of cilantro, minced
For the dressing:
- 6 Tbsp brine from Fermented French Beans and Leeks
- 2 Tbsp vegan fish sauce
- 1 tsp coconut sugar
- Salt and pepper
- Chili flakes
1. In a colander or strainer placed on a mixing bowl, add sliced cherry tomatoes and half a teaspoon of salt. Mix gently and set aside for 10 minutes. Set aside the tomato juice to use in soup broth.
2. Place the slices of red onion in a cup of water and let it stand for 10 minutes. Drain.
3. In a mixing bowl, add coconut meat, mango, fermented french beans and leeks, onion, cherry tomatoes, and ⅔ of the cilantro. Toss gently.
4. Mix the dressing ingredients in a smaller bowl until the sugar is dissolved. You can also skip the sugar if the tomatoes and mangoes are sweet enough for you.
5. Gently combine all the ingredients and refrigerate for half an hour for the flavors to meld. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Garnish your Coconut Mango Salad with remaining cilantro and chili flakes if using, and serve cold.
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