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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 2, 2010

Expert advice on cracking coconuts


By Charles Memminger

How do you crack open a coconut? Dumb question, right? Apparently not. When you pose that question to Google, you get nearly 800,000 hits listing websites and videos that purport to tell you how to do something monkeys figured how to do a million years ago. (Monkey version: Find second monkey. Hit on head with coconut. Eat both.)

Having lived on Guam and fallen in love with the Chamorro dish chicken kelaguen, my wife and I endeavor to re-create it from time to time. It's a fairly simple recipe: chop up boned (preferably barbecued) chicken very fine, add grated fresh coconut, chopped hot peppers and green onions, lemon juice and salt. You eat it on a type of tortilla only available on Guam (pronounced a TOR-TEE-JA) or, if you aren't going to Guam any time soon, a locally produced tortilla (pronounced SAY-FFFF-WAY BRAN-D). The only thing you have to be careful with are the peppers. If you add too many, it really, really, really burns. Twice.

We've always opened coconuts the normal way, with a chain saw. Just kidding. Circular saw. Kidding. Hammer. Not kidding. It's a coconut, so you just bang it with a hammer. Presto. If you want to save the "milk" inside, it's better to use a cleaver. You hold the coconut in your hand, close one eye, stick your tongue out a corner of your mouth, take a deep breath, aim for the middle of the coconut and SLAM the coconut with the cleaver. Then, with the hand you didn't cut off at the wrist, dial 911 and order an ambulance. (NEVER hit a hard round object with the sharp side of a cleaver. The way to open a coconut with a cleaver is to use the BLUNT side, tapping at it along the equator until it gently opens.)

Of course, we are talking here about cracking a coconut after the husk has been removed. Removing the husk can be difficult unless you live at the Polynesian Cultural Center, where a nice lady will remove the husk with her teeth. Don't try that at home. De-husking a coconut with teeth should be left to professionals. Amateurs who try to de-husk a coconut with their teeth usually end up de-teething themselves.

So, it's not that difficult to crack open a coconut. But on the Internet there are those thousands of websites and hundreds of videos, including one by what appears to be three drunk college students who, after nine minutes of attacking the coconut with every kitchen implement at their disposal including the disposal only succeed at becoming more drunk. A guy in England manages to tap the top of the coconut off with the sharp side of a cleaver and then mixes the "coconut milk" with rum, pours it back in and drinks it.

It looked pretty easy but, then again, he didn't post outtakes from later attempts where he's trying to sip his tropical drink in a bouncy ambulance on the way to the emergency room.