Every time I see a red thing in fruit and or buko salad, I know right away that it could be either of the two. Kaong (the sugar palm fruit ) or cherry. However, cherry is rarely added, if so, we are lucky finding one to three. Then, it is red kaong, 90 percent of the time.
Kaong fruit when harvested at the right time and properly processed will result to translucent white, chewy and candy like structure. The shape resembles turtle shell. What we see and eat is not the whole fruit but actually the cotyledon. The seed coat, the thick rind and the rest are thrown away after processing.
Perhaps you noticed. The kaong on your plate changes texture every now and then. Some are too soft and watery and some are too hard to chew. It boils down to expertise of the harvester. He must discern the right time of harvest for best mouth experience. My father has the skill, know how that has never passed down to us. Kaong trees are rare in our place anyway. It is not worth the practice.
I used to work in a company which pre-processed agricultural produce. Kaong was one of the commodities. Quality is always check for the sake of meeting standards. Texture is judge base on Quality Assurance staff hand feel. Quite a subjective and unreliable test. Drain for few seconds to expel excess water off. Some merchants are notoriously adding too much. Then soaked in red dye before selling to other manufacturers.
So why dye it red? Is white not good enough? For people who do not know, they might perceived kaong natural color is red, not translucent white. Banana ketchup is red but banana itself is not. Why is that?
Sweetened kaong is great but coloring it red makes it greater. Color has power. Bright red is not only pleasing to the eye but also encourages hunger. The reason why it is so popular choice of food establishments.
Another possible reason is identity. One is able to identify it easy with the rest of other ingredients. Probably against nata de coco which shares similar texture but of different shape. Not a good excuse though.
FYI. Popular red coloring for this is the FD&C Red 40 or the Allura Red. An annoying dye in my own opinion. After soaking the kaong in dye solution for a certain period. It should be rinsed several times removing excess dye which is indicated by clear water. The dye, whether pure or diluted that comes in contact with the skin is hard to erase.
Marvin is the lead chocolate maker of Ben and Lyn Chocolate Inc. Has strong background in food research and development. Occasionally conducts training and lectures. Accepts coaching and consultancy services. Lecturer of Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines.