Thursday, June 26, 2008

Coconut Milk

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
Mysore Rasam
Vegetable Kurma

This is off to Suganya at Tasty Palettes for this month's AFAM event. Thanks, Suganya.


Asha said...

Fresh coconut is a delight to look at. Sometimes I buy one, take it home only to find that it's half slimy inside, very frustrating.

great post, enjoyed it!:)

Mallika said...

Very interesting and informative. Although coconut tends to be used most in South Indian cuisine. In North India or the East it is used very sparingly.

gocbep said...

Hi! I discovered you through Recipemuncher. This is a great technique! I used to do the same. I have just posted a coconut ice cream recipe, and I'd like to add a link to your post. Thanks for sharing!

Madhavi said...

Oh awesome post dear, thanxxxxx for this recipe!!!

Cynthia said...

Love this post. You know how much of a nut I am when it comes to coconut. Just as in South India, coconut plays a big part in Caribbean cuisine. We have a similar grater like yours which really makes easy work of grating coconuts. I always make my own milk whenever cooking with it too :)

Arundathi said...

Asha - Yes, very true. Especially after going through the process of breaking it, you'd atleast hope its nice inside! :) thanks!

Mallika - very true. I shall amend my post. Thank you.

gocbep - thats very nice of you - off to check your blog now! :)

Madhavi - You're very welcome!

Cynthia - I know - after making the cook-up rice, I realized how the flavors are similar to south Indian cuisine! :) That's cool that you guys use a similar grater - it's a small world! :D

Swati Raman Garg said...

hello hello .. u do this all time.. hats off.. i but myself readymades....

lakshmi said...

coconut looks beautiful. i love that pic. :)

Lisa said...

I've long wanted to make my own coconut milk using fresh coconut. Thanks for this informative post.

Jamie said...

Your instructions are great. The milk looks wonderful and you can use this in so many recipes!

James said...

Great post! The process is very similar to how we do it here in the Philippines. Well, my wife's family, that is.

Fortunately, we're able to just go to the back yard, have one of the boys get us a few coconuts from the trees, and get really fresh milk.

Arundathi said...

Swati - well, I don't use too much coconut milk in my cooking or coconut since we're always on a diet in this house, but yeah, we do this when we need it.

Lakshmi - thanks!

Lisa - You're very welcome.

Jamie - Thanks!

James - We get fresh coconuts here too, and what a difference it makes to the milk, right? :) And thanks for stopping by.

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Jenni Malsingh said...

Your coconut scraper looks positively vicious! I custom made a scraper to do the job for me, you can see pictures on my blog if you are interested:

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