The buko salad – a just-this-side-of-decadent concoction of shredded fresh young coconut (buko), a mixed assortment of fresh or tinned fruit, and sweet cream – has undergone numerous transformations over the years. Filipinos have seen the buko salad ice-drop (frozen salad in popsicle form), low-fat buko salad (fresh fruit and young coconut simply drizzled with honey and a squeeze of kalamansi lime juice; no dairy involved), buko salad ice cream, and the sort of buko salad where the ingredients are layered as opposed to mixed together, kind of like a trifle but with a more tropical spin to it.
And then, there is buko pandan.
The name itself makes the uninitiated think that it is a simple two-ingredient affair: young coconut and screwpine (pandan) leaves. While it does involve those two ingredients, this simplistic version of the classic buko salad also features dairy cream, coconut cream, tapioca pearls, and gelatin cubes. The end result is a creamy, fresh-tasting dessert; not too sweet, mildly herbal, and quite nutty.
Palamig stands – roadside stalls selling cold drinks – offer a super-diluted version of the dessert as a refreshing and less fattening alternative to milkshakes. Nathaniel’s, a relatively new restaurant franchise specializing in native dishes, offers a frozen version of the dessert which comes as a welcome closer for a summer dinner. My favorite, though, is the richly-flavored one from Max’s which is just simple enough, is quite elegant, and comes in a wee portion that is just perfect in that it satisfies cravings without having to overload either one’s tastebuds or belly. 😉