The coconut tree, common in the Asia-Pacific region, is aptly called the “tree of fife” because of its thousand uses. From its roots to the tip of its leaves, you will definitely find several uses for each part. Coconut water inside the drupe, for example, makes a refreshing health drink, wine, vinegar and now... a popular condiment. Yes, coconut water makes a good Asian condiment.
Eastern and southeastern Asians are fond of using a lot of condiments and food ingredients in their respective cuisines. Among the most popular ones is the soy sauce or soya sauce, which is derived from the fermented paste of boiled soybeans.
Soy sauce is used in almost every other Asian dish. Its use originated in China and eventually spread through the neighbouring countries. Several variations on the original preparation have also been made over the years, according to the culture’s desired tastes. Each culture calls soy sauce by different names. The Koreans call it ganjang, the Japanese refer to it as shoyu, while the Filipinos call it toyo.
In the Philippines, toyo is one of the most important condiments and ingredients, so much so that its people cannot live without. On almost every other Filipino dining table you’ll surely find a little bottle of toyo.
A new alternative to soybean-based sauce
Filipinos are known for their ingenuity. Knowing that coconut trees are a good source of everything - from construction material, to kitchen utensils, to juice and food - some local folks tried experimenting to see what more benefits they could get from coconut water. They started to think about more possibilities of use for this liquid because it’s the most discarded part of the coconut drupe during copra production. They wanted it to have some productive use, instead of just throwning it away as waste.
What they did was to boil a little amount of coconut water. And what did they get? A thick and salty thing which tastes like toyo.
They call it coco toyo, obviously referring to the source, coconut. This new discovery drew the attention of a regional television network. Soon it was featured in a segment of Agri Tayo Dito (which means “let’s go agriculture”): many viewers got interested in it. And I’m thankful to Ms Karren M. Verona, executive producer of Agri Tayo Dito, for gladly sharing the procedure on how to make coco toyo.
How to prepare coco toyo
An inquiry I received from my blog, The Catalyst, is from a coconut planter, who saw a commercial potential in the excess coconut water during copra-making. He wanted to convert the otherwise waste coconut water into something he could earn from. So, I'm sharing with you, too, the process of preparing coco toyo, based on what Ms Verona relayed to me earlier.
Ingredient: 2 liters of coconut water (be sure it is fresh and free from any foreign particles)
- Put the coconut water into a pre-heated pan.
- Stir it constantly for about 10 minutes.
- Cover the pan and let it boil. Leave it for 20-25 minutes.
- Stir the coconut water again. This time the water must have already changed color from clear to light brown.
- Wait until the water becomes caramelized (or black). Let it cool, then store it in a clean bottle or other container.
One thing I like about homemade coco toyo is that it does not contain any preservative or additive. Its natural taste is delicious enough. And it can last for about six months. At the time of writing, however, the production of coco toyo is still on the personal consumption level. Consistency in quality is yet to be achieved to make it commercial-worthy.