Sri Lanka’s King Coconut Hangover Cure
By Dave Fox
Nonagama, Sri Lanka
Zooming along Sri Lanka’s southern coast, on the outskirts of Nonagama, our driver, Anu, becomes suddenly excited – about coconuts, which strikes me as odd because we’ve been traveling with Anu for more than a week, and we’ve seen coconuts everywhere in Sri Lanka. He’s never gotten this giddy over them. But in Nonagama, Anu says, the King Coconuts are special.
“The next morning, after a big night of drinking, they are cooling all the body and the blood,” he tells me.
A dust cloud wafts upward as we rumble onto the shoulder of the road. A girl of around seven runs toward us with a smile. Her mother and younger brother follow behind her. The girl gestures for me to take their picture.
The three of them are minding a corrugated aluminum shack. Behind a rickety counter, they’ve got snacks for sale. Outside, next to the shack, is a big mound of orange coconuts.
Anu orders three of them – for himself, Kattina, and me. The mother slices a hole in the top of each, and pokes in a straw. After we slurp out the milk, she positions them on a tree stump and whacks them open with a machete. Using a small piece of our shells like spoons, we scrape out the meat and gobble it down.
The King Coconut is unique to Sri Lanka. It’s sweeter than other coconut varieties. Its meat is softer and its milk has a richer flavor.
Can it cure hangovers? I’m not sure.
Had I known the night before that I’d been doing this research, I would have had an extra beer or two. Without a hangover, I can’t confirm whether or not Anu’s remedy works. But King Coconuts are high in electrolytes – good for rehydration. They’re also high in B-complex vitamins and minerals. Many Sri Lankans say they can reduce fevers and cool the body on a hot day. They’re also used in many Ayurvedic medicinal treatments.
Curative or not, the King Coconuts are tasty – and their shells form natural containers far kinder to the environment than soda cans and water bottles.