Kerisik is a classic ingredient regularly used in Malay cooking. Made from fresh, grated coconut, it is essentially toasted grated coconut pounded until it becomes a thick, gritty, oily paste.
It has a delightful, mouth-watering scent, and a deep, toasty-smoky coconut flavour that adds a different dimension to the dishes it is made with.
Eliminating Kerisik from any recipe that calls for it will result in a dish that does not capture the depth of taste and texture that Kerisik brings to it.
Making Kerisik is relatively easy, which is why it is often made fresh by chefs and the best of home cooks instead of buying it ready-made from a store.
Different “levels” of Kerisik, varying in texture and oiliness are used for different recipes. Here is the kind used when cooking Beef or Chicken Rendang.
• 200g freshly grated coconut
• Add freshly grated coconut to a dry, non-oiled wok or a non-stick pan on medium to high heat.
• Stir continuously with a wooden spoon or metal spatula until it turns a nice, golden brown, continuously scraping the sides of the pan to ensure the grated coconut doesn’t stick and burn unevenly. This will take about 10 minutes.
• Remove from heat and place in a large enough bowl.
• While the coconut is still hot, place in a mortar with room to spare to allow for movement.
• Keep pounding toasted coconut with a pestle until the oil starts to emerge. You may have to do this in batches if your mortar can’t fit all the toasted coconut in one go. The end result will be a thick, oily and gritty paste.
• You can use Kerisik immediately or let it cool thoroughly and keep refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.
• Leftovers can also be frozen for up to a couple of months. However, the fresher the Kerisik, the better the taste.
• Waiting for the toasted coconut to cool down before pounding it will make it more difficult to get the oil out, so try to avoid this.
• If you’re feeling a little lazy, you can use a food processor instead of pounding the toasted coconut by hand. Keep processing the coconut until it becomes an oily, sandy paste. However, this method will result in a finer textured Kerisik, which may be what you want for other recipes, though not necessarily for Rendang.
Kerisik is to Rendang what milk is to Teh Tarik – absolutely essential.
This article first appeared in butterkicap.com
Butterkicap is a food and culture platform and community that enables anyone to experience Malaysia through stories of her people, food and places.