Vietnamese candied coconut ribbons (Mứt Dừa) are a fun and festive treat for Lunar New Year (Tet). This is an incredibly easy recipe that uses at most 5 ingredients. It is a great little colourful treat that will be loved by both kids and adults.
Every year our family comes together for Tet. There are a few dishes that always make a regular appearance, including this one. When I say “appearance” I really mean a very short show – these are so addictive they’re usually one of the first things to completely disappear!
We hope you all have a happy Lunar New Year and may it bring you peace, prosperity and good health!
Ingredients Used in Vietnamese Candied Coconut Ribbons
- Fresh coconut
- Sugar and salt
- Food colouring and flavouring – your options are:
- Option 1 – Green Pandan – pandan extract only. Use a high quality, dark, thick, viscous extract like Koepoe Koepoe. Avoid anything light green or watery.
- Option 2 – Other Colours – food colouring and vanilla sugar. If you can’t get a hold of vanilla sugar just omit. Its purpose is to add vanilla flavouring without impacting the colour. Don’t substitute for normal sugar, as you’ve already sugar and extra sugar isn’t necessary. Don’t substitute for vanilla extract/paste as it will darken the coconut.
- Option 3 – White – vanilla sugar only. Food colouring is obviously not required as the coconut is white already. The vanilla sugar is used for flavouring.
How to Make Candied Coconut Ribbons
Opening the Coconut
- Grab a big meat cleaver or knife, and have a bowl ready to catch the coconut liquid.
- Use the blunt side of the blade to hit the coconut with reasonable force along the equator. Keep going for at least one full revolution or until there is a large crack.
- Pry the crack open and let the liquid drain into bowl. Use the knife or your hands to break it into two halves.
The coconut liquid is not required for this recipe. Drink, discard or use in another recipe like Thit Kho (Vietnamese Braised Caramelised Pork) or Mango Jelly.
Removing the Coconut Flesh
- Get a small knife and run it along the outer edge of the coconut flesh to separate it from the shell. Use your other hand to hold the coconut steady – you can wear a thick glove on this hand as a safety measure.
- Be patient with this step. You are trying to gently pry the coconut out here. If you rush this step you are more likely to break it up into small pieces. If this happens, it is not the end of the world. You will just have shorter coconut ribbons.
- Put the coconut flesh into a bowl of water with some vinegar until you’re ready for the next step. This will keep the coconuts moist and prevent discolouration.
Cutting the Coconut Meat into Ribbons
For this step you’ll need an Asian-style vegetable peeler (pictured below). These are larger than conventional peelers and can be purchased from most Asian groceries.
Normal vegetable peelers will not work as well for this recipe since the ribbons will be too thin. It will also be much harder to use but if you’ve got nothing else then it will have to do!
- Once you have freed the coconut meat from the hard shell, use a vegetable peeler (standard or Asian) to remove the dark outer layer.
- Next, use an Asian vegetable peeler to peel coconut ribbons. Try to cut longer ribbons since they will be more aesthetically pleasing.
Soak, Sweat & Colour
- Add the sugar and salt, then gently combine. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes the coconut will sweat. At this point add the colouring and gently combine.
Note: The key to beautiful coconut ribbons is to go easy on the colouring. You want to just use enough to give the coconut ribbons a pastel colour.
Cooking the Coconut
- Put the coconut into a cold non-stick fry pan. Turn the heat up to medium and gently stir every few minutes.
- Do not be alarmed if the colour looks too light, as it will intensify as the liquid evaporates. Avoid the temptation to put more in.
- After 15 minutes turn the heat down to low. Cook for another 8-10 minutes. In this time continue to move the coconut around the pan and unfold any pieces that have folded on itself.
How to Tell It’s Ready?
Check the coconut for:
- Dryness – the coconut pieces should be dry and have no moisture on the surface.
- Hardness – the coconut slices should not be flimsy. They should be hard enough to hold its shape when held from any angle.
- Sugar crystals – clumps of sugar should form on the surface of the coconut slices.
If you are satisfied, take off the pan and let them dry on a paper towel for 30 minutes.
Storing Candied Coconut
Store the candied coconut in a dry airtight container at room temperature.
Other Similar Recipes
- Rainbow Che (Che Suong Sa Hat Luu)
- Vietnamese Snowballs – (Banh Bao Chi)
- Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake (Banh Bo Nuong)
- “Pig’s Ear” Biscuits – (Banh Tai Heo)
- Layered Pastry and Mung Bean Cake (Banh Pia)
We hope you enjoyed the post and thank you for all your support.
Scruff & Steph
Candied Coconut Ribbons (Mứt Dừa)
- 300 gm coconut meat (roughly 1 large coconut)
- 150 gm white sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla sugar (Required for colour option 2 or white candied coconut. Not required for the pandan option) (available at most mainstream grocers)
Colouring Agent Option 1 – Green Pandan
- ⅛ tsp pandan extract (use a little bit less then 1/8 of tsp for perfect colour and taste)
Colouring Agent Option 2 – Other Colours
- 2 – 3 drops food colouring
Please Refer to the Progress Pictures for Help
- Open the coconut by using the blunt side of a meat cleaver or large knife and cracking open the centre. Use a bowl to catch any liquid. The liquid is not required for this recipe so can be set aside for drinking or another use.
- Run a knife along the outside of the coconut flesh to gently separate it from the shell.
- Remove the coconut meat from the husk. Leave the coconut meat in a bowl of water with 2 tbsp of vinegar.
- Use a vegetable peeler (standard or Asian) to remove the dark outer parts of the coconut flesh. Then, use an Asian vegetable peeler (Note 1) to cut the coconut into ribbons. Put the ribbons into a large bowl.
- Add sugar and salt to the coconut ribbons and gently combine. Let the coconut sweat for 20 minutes, or until liquid has formed at the bottom of the bowl.
- Once liquid has formed at the bottom of the bowl add either the pandan extract (Colouring Agent Option 1), the food colouring (Option 2) or no food colouring for white candied coconut. Combine gently.
- In a cold fry pan, add the sliced coconut with the liquid and fry on medium for 15 minutes. Gently stir every few minutes.
- After 15 minutes, turn the heat down to low and add the vanilla sugar (for Colouring Agent Option 2 or white candied coconut). Cook for 8 -10 minutes and continue to gently toss the coconut slices. Unfold any folded slices of coconut.
- Check the coconut for dryness, hardness and the formation of white sugar crystals. If ready, remove and let it cool on paper towels for 30 minutes. If not, cook further until done.
- Asian vegetable peelers are larger than conventional ones. They can be purchased from most Asian groceries.