There are plenty of things to celebrate this Labor Day weekend, including World Coconut on Sunday, Sept. 2. You can’t make a piña colada or decent curry without it, the water is a favorite thirst quencher, and nothing tastes better toasted.
You might call chef Louis Tikaram, of the Asian-inspired E.P. & L.P. in West Hollywood, the king of the coconuts. There are at least 10 coconut dishes on the menu, both savory and sweet versions from Tikaram and his Australian-Indonesian sous chef, Zen Ong.
Coconut is used in the kokoda, or Fijian style ceviche; the nama sea pearls seaweed ceviche with coconut milk; yellow chicken curry; grilled ocean trout; and satay sauce for the Black Angus skewers.
Desserts include the young coconut pudding, melon/coconut and coconut/mango ice creams. But nothing beats the velvety, dairy-free coconut yogurt made in-house by Tikaram every day, served with hibiscus syrup, berries, mint and toasted coconut flakes.
“We go through about 100 pounds of coconuts each week,” Tikaram tells L.A. Weekly. “We source our young coconuts from the Pacific Coast of Mexico and our mature product comes from Tonga.” His passion for cracking the nut goes back to his childhood.
“My earliest memory of cooking was with my grandmother in Fiji, probably when I was about 6 or 7,” says the avid surfer/chef. “I used to pick the coconuts and scrape them, and hand squeeze the coconut cream that we used to make kokoda, which is on the menu at E.P. at the moment.”
Here are some ways to go coconut cuckoo this weekend:
Badmaash is serving its best-seller, Dad’s famous coconut curry mussels, Madras-style — coconut milk with paprika, turmeric, plum tomato, onion and cilantro.
Try the signature So Cali bowl at Mainland Poké – salmon, avocado, sweet onions and jalapeños topped with coconut sauce. The inspiration for this bowl is a take on the popular Tahitian dish poisson cru, which is a Polynesian poké. The coconut is a distinguishing flavor profile in poisson cru. Locations all around the Westside as well as delivery.
For a classic piña colada in the appropriate setting, head over to Tiki No in North Hollywood for its version with aged St. Croix rum, cream of coconut, pineapple juice and fresh pineapple. Or try the Painkiller, with Pusser’s rum, fresh pineapple and orange juices and cream of coconut.
If you’re in Pasadena, the Raymond 1886 is serving a Happy Place with a smile, made from house-made coconut mix, mango puree, lime juice, vanilla juice, Clement Canne Bleue, Wray & Nephew float, then topped with a mint sprig and fresh cinnamon.
And if you’re feeling frisky, try the Spicy Like a Sleepover in the cozy Moon Bar at Lunetta in Santa Monica. It’s a spicy concoction of St. George Green Chili vodka, Becherovka, coconut cream, lemongrass, ginger, and lime.
One of Gelateria Uli’s signature sorbets, available year-round, is the Thai-inspired coconut with lemongrass, dotted with toasted coconut throughout.
“My husband and I love Thai Town, and we went through this period about six years ago when we fell in love with Jitlada and went every week for six months,” owner Uli Nasibova tells L.A. Weekly.
“We especially loved the tom kha soup. My coconut with lemongrass sorbet was a direct inspiration from dinner that first night at Jitlada,” she says.