Coconut milk is a sweet, milky white cooking base derived from the meat of a mature coconut. The color and rich taste of the milk can be attributed to the high oil content and sugars. In Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia coconut milk is called santan and in the Philippines it is called gata. It should not be confused with coconut water (coconut juice), which is the naturally-occurring liquid found inside a coconut.
Two grades of coconut milk exist: thick and thin. Thick coconut milk is prepared by directly squeezing grated coconut meat through cheesecloth. The squeezed coconut meat is then soaked in warm water and squeezed a second or third time for thin coconut milk. Thick milk is used mainly to make desserts and rich, dry sauces. Thin milk is used for soups and general cooking. This distinction is usually not made in western nations since fresh coconut milk is usually not produced, and most consumers buy coconut milk in cans. Manufacturers of canned coconut milk typically combine the thin and thick squeezes, with the addition of water as a filler.
Depending on the brand and age of the milk itself, a thicker, more paste-like consistency floats to the top of the can, and is sometimes separated and used in recipes that require coconut cream rather than coconut milk. Shaking the can prior to opening will even it out to a cream-like thickness.
Once opened, cans of coconut milk must be refrigerated, and are usually only good for a few days. Coconut milk should never be left at room temperature, as the milk can sour and spoil easily.
You can make your own coconut milk by processing grated coconut with hot water or milk, which extracts the oil and aromatic compounds. It should not be confused with the coconut water discussed above, and has a fat content of approximately 17%. When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will rise to the top and separate out the milk.
Coconut milk is a common ingredient in many tropical cuisines, most notably that of Southeast Asia (especially Filipino, Indonesian, Burmese, Cambodia, Malaysian, and Singaporean, Sri Lankan and Thai), West African, Caribbean, and Polynesian cuisines. Coconut milk can usually be found in the Asian food sections of supermarkets either frozen or canned. Frozen coconut milk tends to stay fresh longer, which is important in dishes where the coconut flavor is not competing with curries and other spicy dishes.
Coconut milk is the base of most Thai curries. To make the curry sauce, the coconut milk is first cooked over fairly high heat to break down the milk and cream and allow the oil to separate. The curry paste is then added, as well as any other seasonings, meats, vegetables and garnishes.
- Various sweet dim sum dishes
- Various sweet soups (tong sui)
- Red curry
- Green curry
- Massaman curry
- Tom kha gai
- Sweet sticky rice
- Tapioca pudding
- Ice Cream
- Coconut pudding
- Thai Shaved Ice or Nam Kang Sai, known as snow cone in the US. Another name is 'Wan-Yen'. In Thailand, this kind of cold dessert is very popular as well. The differences from other countries' shaved ice is that in the Thai version the toppings (mixings) are in the bottom and the shaved ice is on top. There are between 20-30 varieties of mixings that can be mixed in. Among them are young coconut that have been soaked in coconut milk, black sticky rice, chestnuts,sweetened taro, red beans, cheng-sim-ee (special flour that is very chewy and slippery) and many more.
- Spicy chicken curry
- Spicy beef curry
- Spicy and non-spicy fish curry
- Dhal curry
- Potato curry
- Tomato sambol
- Green bean curry
- Coconut milk (Pol kiri) - a dish in itself, usually used for gravy with Pittu
- Milk gravy (Kiri hodi) - Coconut milk with a dash of saffron and onion, usually used for gravy with String-hoppers
- Haupia (a gelatin-like pudding flavored with coconut milk)
- Lu'au (taro leaves simmered in coconut milk)
- Gothampu Payasam (Wheat Payasam)
- Adobo sa Gata (Meat sauteed in soy sauce, garlic, and pepper, thickened with coconut milk)
- Ginata (Various entrees or desserts simmered in coconut milk)
- Ginataang Bilo Bilo (Rice dumpling dessert)
- Ginataang Tilapia (White fish in creamy coconut)
- Gulaman at Sago (Tapioca with coconut milk)
- Laing (Spicy taro dish seasoned with shrimp, pork, and ginger)
- Pancit Butong (Coconut noodles)
- Halo-halo (Shaved ice in coconut milk with sweet beans, ice cream, fruits, condensed milk, and other sundries)
- Halawa (a snack made of sticky rice, butter, coconut milk, similar to Indian halwa)
- Kyauk-kyaw (coconut jelly)
- Mont let saung (tapioca balls, glutinous rice, grated coconut and toasted sesame with jaggery syrup in coconut milk)
- Ohn-no hkauk-hswe (curried chicken and wheat noodles in a coconut milk broth)
- Shwegyi mont (unsweet cake of semolina, coconut milk, and poppy seeds)
Drinks using coconut milk as an ingredient include