cake / dessert Filipino

Buko Pandan Salad (Young Coconut Meat and Pandan Jelly Dessert)

Thursday, July 24, 2014Enz F

The lead star of this very popular Filipino dessert is the meat of the young coconut fruit (locally known as buko) derived from the coconut tree. Filipinos describe coconut tree as “puno ng buhay” (the tree of life) because of its usefulness starting from the leaves and fruits down to the trunks and roots. 

This dessert is derived from the "puno ng buhay" (tree of life).
The tree, which can grow up to nearly 100 ft tall, usually thrives on sandy soil and in tropical climates. The fruit of the coconut is neither a fruit nor a nut but rather considered a drupe, pertaining to the hard shell covered by fibrous outer layer. Other examples of drupes are peaches, almonds, mangoes and olives. The Philippines, alongside India and Indonesia, are the largest planters and producers of coconut in the world.

Coconut is regarded as tree of wonders for the usefulness of the every single part of the tree. 
(Photo sources: flickr-flipmode79 and Your One Voice Can Make A Difference)
To give an overview of the wonders of coconut, let us begin to enumerate the uses of the trunks, leaves and roots. The trunk or coconut lumber makes a sturdy and durable wood that is utilized as construction materials for buildings, homes and furniture. The bodily stem of the tree, along with the midribs and leafstalk are where the pulps and abaca are extracted which eventually are used in the production of papers and handicrafts. The leaves do not only produce good quality paper pulps as they are also useful as packaging to suman (local rice cake), and together with the stems, they could also be manufactured to make brooms, baskets, mats, fans, lamp shades and other home decors. The root of the tree is widely use as dye, mouthwash and alternative medicine for dysentery.

The coconut fruit alone has multitudes of uses too and nothing would be thrown away, even the rinds. The softest part of the coco fruit, especially if it has not yet reached its full maturity, is its fleshy, almost gelatinous white meat which could only be unveiled once the fibrous and rather solid outer casing is cracked open. The tender meat is usually shredded and mixed in salads and beverages (e.g. buko shake, buko-fruit saladhalo-halo or Filipino hodge-podge beverage dessert) or cooked to make desserts and fillings for pies and breads, or simply scraped off from the shell and eaten as is. The tougher meat of matured coconut is where the coco flour and desiccated coconut is derived. This is also grated and pressed with warm water to extract the coconut milk. Coconut milk, as we all know, is an important element of the curry dishes in many Asian countries. The dried meat or copra has highly digestible fat content which when processed into oil could be the healthiest option for cooking (to be used as cooking oil, butter or margarine) and component in beauty products and cosmetics (such as sanitizer, lotion, soap and shampoo). The virgin coconut oil is notable for its anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Meanwhile, the coconut water is regarded as an economical thirst quencher and medical cure for kidney stones and other renal disorders. This can also be processed into coconut vinegar and wine. 

A well-loved Filipino dessert that is everpresent in every special Pinoy occasions.
Co-starring this well-loved dessert salad that I am going to feature is the nata de coco, the semi-opaque jelly cubes derived from the fermented coconut water which is widely used in many sorts of desserts, salads and even candies. Lastly, the coconut husks contains coir and fibers that are very suitable as materials for industrial and cleaning purposes like floor polish, doormats, carpets, brushes, bags, ropes, fishing nets, mattresses, air purifier, gas masks, air conditioners, etc. One important composition of the coconut shell is the activated carbon which is very useful in the production of charcoal. All the benefits mentioned are just some of the valuable uses of coconut. There are actually so many that it would take a while to enumerate all of them.

The salad dessert recipe that I am going to share with you is just the very tip of the iceberg. Buko Pandan Salad (Young Coconut and Pandan Jelly Dessert) is composed of young coconut milk, nata de coco, agar-agar jelly, pandan essence, cream and milk. This is usually served on almost every Filipino occasions and definitely one of my childhood favorite desserts. It is one refreshing bowl of goodness best served cold that would surely be loved by children and adults alike.
Buko Pandan Salad (Young Coconut Meat and Pandan Jelly Dessert)
Number of Servings: 8 to 10

  • 2 cups shredded buko (young coconut meat) 
  • 1 stick green dried agar-agar, flaked or 1 tbsp. green gelatin powder 
  • 3 tbsps. muscovado or brown sugar 
  • 3 cups water 
  • 2 strands pandan leaves 
  • 1 cup nata de coco (coconut gel) 
  • 300 mL (10 oz.) condensed milk 
  • 250 mL (8.5 oz.) all-purpose cream 
  • 1 tsp. pandan extract 

  1. Put water in a saucepan. Soak the flaked agar-agar for 30 minutes or simply dissolve the gelatin powder (if using). 
  2. Tie a knot in the middle of pandan leaves and add into the mixture. Set the heat to high and bring to a boil. 
  3. Add the sugar and stir to combine. Lower the heat to simmer until the agar-agar and sugar are completely dissolved. Continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes while stirring continuously. 
  4. Discard the pandan leaves and transfer the liquid jelly in a flat molder. Allow to cool at room temperature and then refrigerate to set. Carefully take out the hardened jelly from the molder and slice it into small cubes. Set aside. 
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded coconut and nata de coco. 
  6. Pour in the condensed milk, all-purpose cream and pandan extract. Mix until well blended. 
  7. Gradually add the sliced jelly. Stir slowly to combine all the ingredients. Be careful not to break the jelly into pieces. 
  8. Place the buko pandan salad in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours. Serve cold as an after meal dessert. Enjoy! 

  1. Other ingredients that can be added are sago, tapioca pearls and kaong (sugar palm gel). 
  2. Serve atop with a scoop of your favorite ice cream. 
  3. You may use sweetened macapuno (gelatinous coconut meat) instead of the regular meat of young coconut. 
  4. You can also try Buko Salad with Fruit Cocktail.

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