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How to make coconut milk at home is probably one of the most essential things a Thai home cook should know.
When you think about coconut milk, you probably think about canned versions and haven’t thought much about how to make it or is it actually to make coconut milk by yourself. In this content, I will be walking you through a step-by-step of how to make your own coconut milk.
Coconut milk is one of the most important ingredients in Thai Kitchen. Whether you are going to make curries or Thai desserts, the recipes are all required coconut milk as part of the ingredient.
In this post, I will be introducing to you:
- How to make fresh coconut milk at home – Thai style
- Different parts of coconut milk – Head/tail/body
- The differences between canned coconut milk and freshly made coconut milk.
- What are the benefits of coconut milk.
How to make fresh coconut milk at home – Thai style
The first thing I would like to talk about is, different kinds of coconut and what they are used for.
- Young coconut (Ma Prao Nam Hom) – This is probably the most popular kinds of coconut that is in the market. Young coconut is mostly used for drinking its juice and its flesh. In Thai cuisine, we also use the flesh for some of the desserts dish. We shred the soft meat inside into long stripes and use them as a topping or condiment in desserts such as coconut cream ice-cream.
- Mature coconut – This type of coconut is the one that is used for making coconut milk. It has thick brown skin outside and very thick white meat inside. Why mature coconut is used for making coconut milk? As the coconut is grown mature, the meat inside is thicken and toughen up. Hard coconut meat contains a high-fat content and that is the reason why the taste of coconut meet is buttery and creamy.
- Tune-Took coconut – This kind of coconut is a different specie from the two above. It is used when the coconut is in between young and mature. The meat is very white, rather dry and it has a crunchy and buttery texture. We usually shred its white meat into stripes and use them in desserts.
Alright, after we know which kind of coconut we are after, let’s make coconut milk.
Before we begin, let’s get to know different parts of coconut milk
Have you ever wonder when you look through authentic Thai curry recipes and they talk about “head part” and “tail part” of the coconut milk? If you are, don’t worry because I will explain to you now.
When you are thinking about coconut milk, try to imagine it like a cow milk. The head part is like the cream, the body is whole milk and the tail is skimmed milk. The differences is the fat content inside the milk.
But how does head, tail and body of coconut milk is made?
It’s simply made from the coconut flesh and warm water. I write a full instruction on how to make coconut milk for you below 🙂
Homemade coconut milk
- 2 Bowls
- Coconut Shredder
- 1 kg Coconut meat shredded. or roughly about 2 coconut. This will depend on the size of the coconut that you have got. However it's not very strict on the amount as long as it ratio of water and shredded coconut is right.
- 1 Cup lukewarm water The water should be hot, just enough for you to sit your hands inside. Warm water will help to bring out fats from coconut meat and also it will help coconut milk to last longer.
- Shred out the brown fibre on coconut shell as much as possible to avoid the brown bits from falling into coconut shred while you are shredding.
- Open the coconuts by using the back of a large or heavy weight knife. I use Machete, it's my handy tool. When you open the coconut, make sure that you position your knife on the right place. You want to place the knife in the middle of the coconut, perpendicular to the single dot side of the coconut. See image for a clearer picture of positioning.
- Placing a bowl under the shredder and shred the coconut from outer side toward inner side. When you shred the meat, you want to move either clockwise or anti-clockwise, and in a spiral form until you get to the centre point. Try to shred without putting too much weight to the shell. When you finish the first round, there will still be a lot of white meat left, so you just repeat the step again until all the meat from the shell are gone.
- Once all of the coconut meat are shedded. Put half cup of lukewarm water inside the same bowl with coconut shred and use your hand to squeeze for about 10 mins to bring out fats from coconut meat. If the meat seems too dry and difficult to squeeze out coconut milk, you can slowly add more water. You can also add more water than I suggested if you want a less concentrate coconut milk.
- After 15 minutes of squeezing, the coconut cream, or the head should come out nicely now. It won't appear much at this moment. Put a strainer on top of another clean bowl and strain and squeeze coconut cream from the shredded meat. You will get about 1 cup + of coconut cream, depends on how much water you use. Coconut cream is perfect to use for topping desserts or have it as a condiments for some dishes. It gives a rich flavour and intense texture.
- Repeat the whole process of squeezing again by adding the same amount of water and same timing. You will get coconut milk, or The Body from the second time. This part is perfect for making curry and dessert that has coconut milk as a liquid base.
- Lastly, repeat the same process once again and the last part is call The Tail, or skimmed coconut milk. It can be used for stewing meat, to make the meat tender or add to curry if there isn't enough coconut milk or some people like the curry to be least milky, they would mixed tother coconut milk and skimmed coconut milk.
The differences between canned coconut milk and freshly made coconut milk.
Fresh and canned coconut milk both have their pros and cons. I will list out a few points of each one for you to see and inspect.
Fresh coconut milk – Pros
- It has natural sweetness
- The freshness gives a strong natural fragrance which enhances the food taste and smell.
- It’s more buttery and gives more natural oil when stir-fried; makes the dish taste very yummy and satisfying.
- You can make your own coconut milk anytime when every you needed.
- Whole coconuts are from Thailand, thus it’s locally produce. The Thai coconut is one of the best coconuts in the world! Why would I want to use imported coconut when I already have the best coconut in hand.
Fresh coconut milk – Cons
- Sometimes it’s inconvenient; Time consuming.
- It goes off quite quickly especially if you buy fresh coconut milk from fresh market. If their equipment aren’t clean, the coconut milk can go off within 2-3 hours.
- It’s more pricey than canned coconut milk. This point is mostly will be taken on consideration by a restaurant.
- Fresh coconut milk is more difficult to manage and taking care off.
Canned coconut milk – Pros
- Easy to store and taking care off.
- It cost least than fresh coconut milk.
- The Least time-consuming
Canned coconut milk – Cons
- Natural fragrance is absent
- Natural fats are absent and therefore it decreases the flavour in the food.
- Most of the coconuts is imported.
In the end, I still prefer to use fresh coconut milk if it’s available. Simply just because of it’s naturally made and fresh. However, this doesn’t mean that canned coconut milk are not good. Canned coconut milk is very practical and convenient especially if you live somewhere there is no fresh coconut available. There are still good qualities of canned coconut milk available out there. Try to read the label and inspect the ingredients inside thoroughly before purchase one.
What are the benefits of coconut milk
Last but not least. The benefits of coconut milk.
In every single ingredient that is natural, I believe it has its own goodness which are beneficial for our healthy one way or another. However, the consumption amount must not be too overloaded.
Firstly, coconut milk contains fats and fats are healthy for your body and skin. Don’t discard fats from your diet because it’s an essential nutrient for your body.
Secondly, coconut milk can help to keep your weight consistent and moreover, it can help weight-lose, if you are looking to lose your weight.
Thirdly, it helps to boost your immune system. Coconuts contain a lipid called lauric acid, and scientists believe that lauric acid helps to build immune system in our body.
Lastly, It tastes so good! You can add coconut milk in your breakfast smoothies or substitute milk with coconut milk in your bakeries. There are so many creative dishes you can use coconut milk as part of the ingredient.
Today, I’m sure you will be excited to try out some new recipes using your own homemade coconut milk.
You can visit “Recipes” section of my blog to get some ideas of what you would like to get creative with.
Keep me posted on your creative ideas and write me an email if you have any questions.
Benefit of coconut milk