In southern India, we add coconut to most curries and sometimes even to sauteed vegetables. Adding coconut adds flavor, but also substance and richness.
I bought coconut milk in a tetra-pack when in the US. And for a while, even in India. Then I learned how to extract coconut milk, and haven't bought a tetra-pack since. I did it out of sheer necessity since a recipe called for using the 1st milk (the thicker stuff) and then the 2nd milk. So I decided to give it a go, and found it pretty simple. I'm sure a lot of you out there know how this is done, but I wanted to document the process.
So here goes a pictorial description.
Extracting Coconut Milk
It's not easy to open a coconut, but watching people in India breaking coconuts at temples, i just threw it hard on the floor and voila! it just split open. Next comes the grating. In India, we use a special blade (called an Aruvamanai in Tamil). Here's what it looks like. Just grate the coconut against the blade to get grated coconut. You could also use a knife to scrape out the coconut from the shell.
After grating the coconut, put it in a blender with some water and blend for a couple of minutes. Transfer the contents into a muslin cloth over a large bowl. Squeeze it to extract the 1st milk (the thicker one).
Next transfer the grated coconut from the muslin cloth back into the blender and add more water. Repeat the process and squeeze the contents into another bowl - this is the 2nd milk, which is much thinner.
(See the difference? The one in the blue bowl is much thinner)
You can repeat this process again depending on how meaty the coconut is. Stop at 3 times, though - after that its just the water that drains through.
Coconut milk is used in a variety of recipes. Here are some that I've made that you might enjoy:
Burmese Khow Suey
Cynthia's Cook-up Rice
This is off to Suganya at Tasty Palettes for this month's AFAM event. Thanks, Suganya.