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Christine Coyaso makes the coconut connection

It is Thursday, and Christine Coyaso undoes the shutters to the Kaua‘i Coconuts food truck parked in the Kaua‘i Crossfit parking lot on Kuhio Highway in Lihu‘e.

The Kaua‘i Coconuts food truck, open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, traces its beginnings to the farmers, market, where Coyaso used to join husband Adam Coyaso in selling her Vietnamese sesame-mochi doughnuts, the only item that fit the requirements of the market, while the couple tended to fresh-coconut sales.

It was Christine Coyaso’s love of coconuts that brought her to Kaua‘i, where she eventually opened the Kaua‘i Coconuts food truck.

“I’ve always loved coconuts,” she said. “We — my sister and I — were vacationing here one rainy Saturday when we saw the farmers’ market at the Kaua‘i Community College. We had to stop, and while my sister shopped for other items in the market, I got my coconuts.”

She got more than coconuts during that stop at the Kaua‘i Community Market, a partnership between the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau and KCC before the arrival of the COVID-19 dissolved the market.

“He (Adam) actually gave me his phone number,” Christine Coyaso said. “I didn’t ask for it. He wrote it on the most-aged, dirty receipt he could find, and I called him.”

Long story short, she is here for the long haul.

“Having a food truck or restaurant has always been my dream,” she said. “I learned to cook from both my mother and sister, and coconut is big in Vietnamese cooking.”

Similar to the plantation camps that sprouted with the arrival of immigrants to work in the fields, Coyaso’s mother owned a loosely defined convenience store where food was able to be sold in the village where Coyaso was born and raised until the family left Vietnam when she was 4 years old.

“I grew up eating coconuts, especially the desserts,” she said. “We use every part of the coconut. We use the coconut water as bases for soups and sauces. We have big Buddhist and vegan communities in Vietnam, so being able to use the coconut is significant.”

Solidifying her relationship with Dang’s Farm, another of the farmers’ market regulars, she opened the doors to Kaua‘i Coconuts with selections in appetizer and side orders like the pork egg roll that features a Vietnamese sauce, entrees, a banh mi sandwich, and drinks including fresh coconut juice, a coconut water-based juice, and Viet coffee. Topping everything is the sesame mochi donuts that have become a staple at the Coyaso coconut stand at the farmers’ market.

These are deep-fried mochi coated in sesame seeds with yellow mung bean paste and fresh coconut filling.

“The French have some influence in Vietnamese cooking,” she said. “The word ‘banh’ is Vietnamese for ‘bread,’ a bread similar to the baguette. At the Kaua‘i Coconuts food truck, we have a bit of everything.”

Specials are posted on Instagram and social media.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or
Source: The Garden Island

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