Today I was eating some mango-flavored Malaysian jellies and I noticed that the chewy cubes within the carrageenan matrix were described on the package as nata de coco. Naturally, I had to look this up, because anything relating to coconut and chewy things interests me.
I came upon this description: "Nata de Coco is a chewy, translucent, jelly-like substance produced by the bacterial fermentation of coconut water. It is mixed in one of the most popular refreshment, the halo-halo, with other stuffs like red beans, macapuno, sweetened bananas and sweet potatoes, ube and leche flan. There are others stuffs that I forgot to mention but nata de coco is a mainstay maybe because of it’s unique taste and consistency. There have been a craze of this product in the past because it became a hit in Japan and exported in that country so many ventured on making nata de coco due to the high demand." Nata de coco, though similar in name, is infinitely better than its fellow-ferment and soundalike, natto.
It is quite interesting that coconut can be fermented into a chewy-candy like substance. I am addicted to the cellulosey nature of nata de coco. The Filipino Entrepreneur site, from which I obtained the nata-info, also contains several recipes on how to make it at home from shredded coconut and water. Of course, obtaining nata de coco culture is important. In middle school I tried to make tempeh from old tempeh and failed miserably, befouling the closet with a horrid miasma for a week. I have, however, made bread from letting dough sit around for a few days. That is what my father said people in China used to do because they were too poor to buy yeast. I have heard the same story from Russians and Latinos. I bet people in parts of the US do the same thing. I think that the first commercial yeasts were collected from bread that just sat around a collected yeast, so you're getting free yeast out of the deal. But yeast has no relation to nata de coco, which comes from cellulogenic bacteria.
The presence of nata gives an interesting texture to the jelly; sort of forming an ur-jelly that devolves outward into progressively less and less jelliness. Once I saw a meat product called brawn that reminds me of nata de coco jelly. It came in a jar, like mass-produced borscht. As I am vegetarian, I don't think I would be able to pass judgment on this item, but I assume that the pieces of meat floating inside bear a similar relation to the surrounding aspic, and must be equally as delightful to chewiness-obsessed carnivores. I would like to hear the experiences of those who have tried this product.