How To Make Coconut Cream & Coconut Milk

How To make Coconut Cream and Coconut Milk

Coconut milk and coconut cream are essentials in many southeast Asian recipes, from curries to laksas and desserts.

While good canned coconut cream and milk are great standbys (and I always have a few cans of Ayam in the pantry), nothing beats coconut cream made from fresh coconut.

Coconut cream and coconut milk are made by mixing warm water with grated coconut meat from a mature coconut (not a young drinking coocnut) to extract the coconut oil. No matter how much water you add, the yield of cream will always be the same as it separates from the milk. Using more water, just gives more diluted milk.

A small benchtop coconut grater, available from Indian and Islander grocery stores, is the easiest way to grate coconut (see photo above).

Here’s how to make coconut cream and coconut milk from fresh coconuts:

  1. Crack the coconut open by bouncing the back of a heavy knife or cleaver off the side of it (see video below from 5:32–6:34); do this over the sink or a bowl as the coconut water inside will spill out.
  2. Grate the coconut flesh onto a clean tea towel, avoiding the brown inner skin; alternatively prise it from the shell, chop roughly and process in a food processor.
  3. Mix coconut with warm water.
  4. Wrap a small quantity of the coconut in muslin and squeeze over a strainer into a non-reactive bowl (use glass, china or plastic as metal taints the cream). Repeat with remaining coconut, squeezing a small amount at a time to extract the maximum yield.
  5. Set aside for at least 20 minutes so the coconut cream can separate from the coconut milk. The cream is the thicker, opaque liquid that floats on top of the milk (which is the thinner liquid on the bottom).
  6. The coconut flesh can be mixed with more hot water and squeezed again to extract more coconut milk. There will be very little cream in this second pressing.
  7. Both coconut cream and coconut milk are best used within a few hours of making.

How To ‘Crack’ Coconut Cream

Curries that are fried in coconut cream often call for the cream to be ‘cracked’ or separated.

This involves simmering the cream until most of the water evaporates and the cream separates into thin oil and milk solids.

Once separated, coconut cream lasts indefinitely refrigerated and the separated oil can be used for deep-frying.

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How To Open A Coconut

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