Lara Lee makes Es Teler (Shaved Ice with Jackfruit, Avocado and Coconut) | Food & Wine Cooks

Es teler sits comfortably in the middle of a Venn diagram of "dessert" and "refreshing drink": it's one of many similarly hard-to-classify (but wonderful to eat) sweets found throughout Asia.

Video Transcript

LARA LEE: Es means ice in Indonesia, and Teler is Javanese slang for, this is getting me high, or I feel a little drunk. And that's because this dish, or beverage, tastes so delicious that you are going to feel so happy, you're going to feel a little bit drunk after you've tried it.

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So at the heart of Es Teler is the beautiful, delicate flesh of a young coconut, and some people find cutting into a young coconut a little bit daunting, but it really can be very easy and very safe, if you follow the simple instructions. You'll generally find them at Asian supermarkets or specialist kind of markets.

Now, to crack into our coconut, what you're going to need is a cutting board and a really sturdy knife. You want to put the coconut on its side and where the pointy end is here, you want to cut that off.

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And now you can see I've revealed the coconut shell underneath, and this is what we want. We're going to keep removing the husk until there's no husk left and we can see more of that brown shell. Then I have cut any more away. You can see that happening right here.

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This is the part where we open the coconut. So using the heel of my knife here-- this is where you need to be a little bit careful-- I'm going to start whacking the coconut shell open.

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It can splash. I probably should have worn an apron for that. And then when you [INAUDIBLE] knife, I should be able to pry it open. So I'm just going to keep moving it around here. There we go. And you can see here that the coconut has just opened up beautifully like that. Grab yourself a straw, and just take a little sip, and it's absolutely beautiful, so fresh. But I am going to use this coconut water for [INAUDIBLE] coco pandan syrup. So I'm just going to put it through a sieve into a bowl.

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Just like that, and there it is, our coconut water is out of our coconut. I splashed myself with coconut water. This is why you must wear an apron while you're opening your coconut, so just give me a second. I'm real good. OK. Yeah, you're going to need a cleaver and a big knife and a hair dryer to open it. [LAUGHING]

And now it's time to scoop out the really soft, tender coconut flesh, so I put a spoon here. And you just literally have to cut into the coconut, the inside and just kind of wiggle your spoon around, and then you can see it coming out, just like this. You'll also notice there is a little bit of a tougher, brown skin. You do want to scrape that off with your spoon, or with your knife. But it just cuts away very easily, just like that. So you're just going to keep removing the flesh from the coconut.

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And the difference between a young coconut and a mature coconut is that the mature coconut will have a harder shell, the flesh will be a lot firmer, so when you're going to grate coconut, you would generally do that with a mature coconut, because the flesh is a lot firmer, so you could actually work it against a box grater. But in terms of this dish, the Es Teler, the coconut meat is one of the integral flavor, and textures, and elements. So I just take out all the flesh of my coconut, so I'm just going to scrape off the brown skin on all these pieces, and I'm just cutting my coconut into small strips, about an 1/8 of an inch wide, and you see here good looking, beautiful, really lovely white and this is absolutely delicious to eat.

So I put two types of jelly here. One is Nata de Coco, which is like a coconut jelly, and the other one is Cincau, known as grass jelly, and you can see-- look at that little wobble-- they come straight out of this can. And I can do a workout holding these things, as well. I'm going to opt with the grass jelly today, because I love the kind of color it gives, and I really love that wobble from the jelly, but if you can't find grass jelly or Nata de Coco, you could really use any store bought jelly. Super easy chopping too.

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I'm just chopping these into half inch cubes. So easy to cut, and look at that, beautiful jelly.

So one of the key ingredients of Es Teler is condensed pandan syrup, which has very unique and beautiful ingredient, it grows all over southeast Asia. It's pandan leaf. Now pandan has a herbacious, floral, and grassy aroma that is really unlike anything else, I think, in the world. And it is used a lot in Indonesian sweets. Now the way to handle a pandan leaf is to tie it in a knot. And the best method is to fold it in half and then tie the knot just like this. And that means it's going to fit nicely into your saucepan. I'm just going to fold it like that. And if you can't find pandan leaf, you're really looking for something that's going to give your syrup some fragrance, so I would substitute these two pandan leaves if you can't find it, with just 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

We're going to add into our saucepan our coconut milk, cane sugar. If you can't find cane sugar you can really use any kind of white sugar. That's fine. A little bit of salt, our coconut water, and our pandan leaves, popping those right in. And I'm just going to give everything a little stir, and I'm going to bring it to a boil.

So our coco pandan syrup and have now down to a boil. I'm just going to turn this down to let it simmer, just for five minutes. And that's just to really help the flavors infuse. So our coco pandan syrup has been simmering for five minutes and the kitchen is just filled with the fragrance. pandan smells so beautiful. So I'm just going to take it off the heat and let the flavors infuse for a minimum of 30 minutes, but up to two hours.

While our coco pandan syrup is infusing, we're going to make out tapioca pearls. And tapioca pearls just adds incredible texture to the Es Teler. You'll see the tapioca pearls here are quite hard, little balls, but when they are cooked in hot water they transform into these chewy gelatinous balls that just give wonderful texture, in contrast to the crunch of the shaved ice, and the softness of the jackfruit and the avocado and the coconut meat.

Let's start by doing our tapioca pearls. So I'm just going to add some water to a saucepan. So my water has come to a boil, so I'm just going to sprinkle in my tapioca pearls into the pan. And I just wanted to cook this at a medium high heat, just for about two to three minutes. I want to see the tapioca pearls kind of moving around the pan. A bit like a washing machine.

So our tapioca pearls have been boiling away and they're lovely and chewy and translucent now. So I'm just going to turn off the heat. Strain them in a bowl , and I want to reserve this water. I'm just going to give these beautiful tapioca pearls a little rinse under cold water. So I've given my tapioca pearls a rinse. I'm just going to pop them into a bowl here. And I'm just going to add 1 cup of the hot water into the bowl of tapioca pearls. And some sugar, just to create a nice sugar syrup. And this just prevents the tapioca pearls from sticking to each other. So I'm just going to give that a little stir to combine, and that's how we're going to store our tapioca pearls until we need to use it for our Es Teler.

So our coco pandan syrup has been infusing now for 30 minutes, and it's cooled down. So I'm just going to strain it through this sieve.

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If I could strain. If I could only know how to strain. But yes, to strain it through a sieve to catch the pandan leaves. And now what we've got here is a beautiful, fragrant and aromatic coco pandan syrup, and this is ready to use in our Es Teler.

So one of the key ingredients of Es Teler is jackfruit. Now jackfruit is a beautiful, bumpy [INAUDIBLE] fruit that grows in Southeast Asia. And when it's young and unripe, it becomes like a sponge of flavor. So if you cook it with a beautiful spice paste it's going to absorb all of that flavor, become quite fibrous and be a really good substitute for meat. So be sure to buy for Es Teler ripe jackfruit, which looks like there's this gorgeous yellow color, and I found a pungent aroma, that I think, for some, might be an acquired taste, but for me it tastes sweet and delicious and juicy and beautiful.

The young, unripe jackfruit looks just like this, I'm holding it in the palm of my hand. But when it becomes ripe it can grow up to a meter or more in size, and they're quite hard to handle, because they are quite spiky. So I prefer to buy my ripe jackfruit in a can. What we're going to do for this recipe is just to cut the jackfruit into, again, little thin strips, about 1/8 of an inch wide.

Now in Indonesia, it is never used in a savory dish, avocado. It's always used in sweet dishes. Avocado adds a lovely, creamy texture to Es Teler, and it's just going to add a savory element to the dish, for me, as well. So not everything has to be sweet. And it also just works really beautifully with the other flavors in the dish. Avocados are not native to Indonesia. They were introduced in 18th century by the Spanish, but they grow abundantly in a lot of Indonesian backyards and gardens. For the tropical avocado, the fruit there is a little bit more bland in flavor. So again, it, kind of works really well with stronger, sweeter syrups.

And other element here is the toddy palm seed. Now you can see here, there's just this beautiful-- almost like a treasure that you would find in a cave. All I'm doing is just halving it crossways, and you can see here. And that's just going to, again, add another kind of chewy element that is going to make our Es Teler be texture heaven.

Well, isn't this a feast for the eyes? There's so much color and texture, and I just cannot wait to tuck in. So I'm going to plate up a couple of bowls, and what I'm going to do is just evenly distributed our avocado, our jackfruit, our white coconut mean and toddy palm at the bottom of each bowl. So it's a very flexible dish, in terms of how it might be served, and you can think of it as both a beverage, but also a really lovely bowl of dessert that you can eat and enjoy, especially refreshing on a very hot day.

So just popping in my toddy palm seeds here. Just going to add our cincau, or grass jelly. And then I coco pandan syrup, I'm just going to drizzle a little bit of this on the top. It's just going to add that fragrance and that sweetness, and everything is just layers and layers of texture and flavor. And that's what I love about Es Teler. The first time I ate it was actually the first time I visited Indonesia, and my parents took me to where my dad grew up in Timor and also to Bali and Es Teler vendors everywhere you go. And it was the first time I tried this, kind of, icy dessert drink, and this is just one of those drinks that, for me, really captures the heart and soul of Indonesia.

Now put some crushed ice here. Let's top a little bit there. And then I'm going to top it with some condensed milk. Oh yeah. It's like such a perfect way to finish this off, yum. And finally, our tapioca pearls were soaking in this sugar syrup here, so I just strained them in a sieve. And all I'm going to do, I'm just going to pop a few of those tapioca pearls on top of each Es Teler, just for a little bit of color and texture. Can you see that? I mean, it just looks so pretty.

This Ikat textile is from Timor, where my dad is from, and it's a family heirloom. And when I eat Indonesian food, I love to put a tablecloth like this out, because it really transports me, especially when I'm eating Es Teler, back to that moment when I first tried it on the hot streets, from a street view vendor in Indonesia. And it just makes me feel like I've gone right back there and tasting it for the very first time.

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It is just a bowl of surprise and deliciousness and texture. You've got the crushed eyes and the tapioca pearls that you chew. The softness of the avocado just gives this lovely savory element to go with the sweetness of the jackfruit, that gorgeous, lovely, softness of the coconut. It is Indonesia in a bowl, and I really hope when you guys try this recipe at home that it transports you to my favorite place in the world. So [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] everybody, which means happy cooking in Indonesian.

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