Thursday, 19 March 2009
COCONUT MILK is extracted from the white flesh of a mature coconut. The colour and rich taste of the milk can be attributed to the high oil content and sugars. In Malaysia (and Malay speaking countries), coconut milk is called SANTAN. COCONUT MILK should not be confused with coconut water (coconut juice), which is the naturally-occurring liquid found inside a coconut. It makes a refreshing drink.
Two grades of COCONUT MILK exist: thick and thin. Thick coconut milk is prepared by directly squeezing grated coconut meat through a muslin or cheesecloth. This first extraction is your THICK COCONUT MILK. Next, warm water is added to the meat and squeezed a second or third time for THIN COCONUT MILK. Thick milk is used mainly to make desserts and rich, dry curries. Thin milk is used for normal curries or the famous tom yum soups and general cooking. Canned coconut milk typically combine the thin and thick squeezes, with the addition of water as a filler. If a recipe calls for thick COCONUT MILK, try using coconut cream which comes in small tetra packs or COCONUT MILK in powder form which will enable you to adjust the thickness of the milk.
Cans of COCONUT MILK must be refrigerated once opened, 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. I always freeze any leftover COCONUT MILK in a tupperware and thaw it in the microwave for a minute on medium.
In essence, COCONUT MILK is the South and South-East Asian non-dairy counterpart of the dairy cream.
See my post on GADGETS AND UTENSILS: COCONUT SCRAPER/GRATER on how to obtain grated coconut.