How to eat avocados
KUALA LUMPUR, May 31 — When is an avocado ready to eat? Press the top of it to test its ripeness, so that the body of the fruit is not damaged. Basically if you have the Hass avocado, one of the 70 varieties that are grown in Australia, and if it turns a rich purple, it is ripe. Eighty per cent of the avocadoes grown there are of the Hass variety, and only 14 per cent is the pear-like, smooth-skin Shepard.
The Australian Hass as well as the Shepard varieties are commonly sold here. Avocado trees do thrive in Malaysia. A friend of mine has six Shepard avocado trees in her garden in Ipoh, and they bear a lot of fruit. There also used to be avocado trees along Jalan Tun Razak in Kuala Lumpur.
At the Beyond Culinary Studio Theatre at Sunway Giza, Petaling Jaya recently, chef Mohd Nor from the KL Convention Centre was leading us through a tasting of the Australian Hass avocados. This particular variety has a leathery skin and is known to have more flavour than the Shepard.
We tasted it with salt flakes, then sugar, and honey. I like it very much with honey; that’s how I eat it at home. It tastes good with salt too; it seems to give it a creamier feel. Recently I have been eating avocado with maple syrup, which has a low glycaemic index, and is very nutritious.
Avocados are full of vitamins A, C and E, and contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and magnesium. They are good for your heart as they are rich in monounsaturated fats.
Every part of the avocado can be used — even the skin can be a light scrub for your face, and it has Vitamin E. The seed can be used to make avocado oil.
“To ripen an avocado, put it in a bag with a banana and within two days you can eat it,” said the chef. Ripe avocados can be stored in the fridge for two to three days. If you cut an avocado and wish to store it in the fridge, sprinkle lemon juice or white vinegar on it to prevent discoloration.
Mohd Nor also taught us ways to use avocado in Asian food, besides just eating it raw, in a salad or in guacamole. He presented three recipes — Avocado Kuih Pie Tee, Seared Chicken Roulade with Avocado Raita Kachumber Salad and Pappadam, and Avocado Bubur Cha Cha. “Avocados that are 40 to 50 per cent ripe can be put into chicken curry. It’s a good substitute for potatoes,” he said.
Mohd Nor has been doing R&D in the KL Convention Centre kitchen with avocados, and he and his team have turned out 11 Asian recipes.
First he did the avocado and shrimp filling for the Pie Tee, with the cubed avocado being added last after the cooking of the shrimps, long beans, carrot and tomato. They made delicious bites with the creamy avocado blending with the shrimps and vegetables in the crispy top hat.
“Always add avocado last,” said the chef, as he moved on to the Seared Chicken Roulade with Avocado Raita Kachumber Salad and Pappadam. This has flattened chicken thigh meat rolled up with chicken farce, walnut, mango, chopped tarragon and milled pink peppercorns and salt, poached in simmering water, then seared in hot oil in a pan.
A raita is made with avocado, yoghurt, onion, tomato, a pinch of cumin powder and chopped coriander. It makes a wonderful pairing for the chicken roulade. Again avocado is added last, because of its delicate, soft and creamy nature.
Avocado segments should only be flash fried. I have had avocado tempura and it is excellent.
Mohd Nor did an Avocado Cha (or bubur cha cha) for dessert. The avocado is blended with water, after which coconut milk and sugar and a bit of salt are added. The avocado cream is served with flavoured and coloured sago.
The avocado is an ancient fruit — it has been flourishing in Mexico and Central America since 291 BC. Avocados have been discovered buried next to mummies in Peru. The Aztecs called it “ahuacati”, meaning testicles, referring to the fruit’s appearance hanging from the tree. The Spanish invaded Mexico and Peru in the 16th century and transported the fruit to Europe and the rest of the world.