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Coconut milk in a bowl.
Coconut milk is a sweet, milky white cooking base derived from the meat of a mature coconut. The colour and rich taste of the milk can be attributed to the high oil content and sugars. In Malaysiamarker, Bruneimarker and Indonesiamarker coconut milk is called santan and in the Philippinesmarker it is called gata. In Thailandmarker it is called ga-ti (กะทิ) and used in many of the Thai curries. In Brazilmarker, it is called leite de coco (literally, coconut milk). It should not be confused with coconut water (coconut juice), which is the naturally-occurring liquid found inside a coconut.

Preparation

Two grades of coconut milk exist: thick and thin. Thick coconut milk is prepared by directly squeezing grated coconut meat through cheesecloth. The squeezed coconut meat is then soaked in warm water and squeezed a second or third time for thin coconut milk. Thick milk is used mainly to make desserts and rich, dry sauces. Thin milk is used for soups and general cooking. This distinction is usually not made in Western nation since fresh coconut milk is usually not produced, and most consumers buy coconut milk in cans. Manufacturers of canned coconut milk typically combine the thin and thick squeezes, with the addition of water as a filler.

Depending on the brand and age of the milk itself, a thicker, more paste-like consistency floats to the top of the can, and is sometimes separated and used in recipes that require coconut cream rather than coconut milk. Shaking the can prior to opening will even it out to a cream-like thickness. Some brands sold in Western countries add thickening agents to prevent the milk from separating inside the can, since the separation tends to be misinterpreted as a sign of spoilage by people who have no experience with coconut milk.

Once opened, cans of coconut milk must be refrigerated, 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.

Coconut milk can be made at home by processing grated coconut with hot water or milk, which extracts the oil and aromatic compounds. It has a fat content of approximately 17%. It should not be confused with the coconut water (discussed above). When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will rise to the top and separate out from the milk.

Coconut milk may also be used for drinking raw by itself, or as a substitute for animal milk in tea, coffee, etc. It can be mixed with fruit to make a yogurt substitute and in general for baking.

Cooking

Canned coconut milk can be partially solid liquefying with temperature.
Coconut milk is a common ingredient in many tropical cuisines, most notably those of Southeast Asia (especially Burmese, Cambodian, Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, and Thai), Bangladesh, parts of India (notably South Indian and Western Indian), as well as Brazilian, Caribbean, Polynesian, and Sri Lankan cuisines. Frozen coconut milk tends to stay fresh longer, which is important in dishes in which the coconut flavor is not competing with curries and other spicy dishes.

Coconut milk is the base of many Thai curries. To make the curry sauce, the coconut milk is first cooked over fairly high heat to break down the milk and cream and allow the oil to separate. The curry paste is then added, as well as any other seasonings, meats, vegetables and garnishes.

In Brazilmarker, it is mostly used in the northeastern cuisine, generally with seafood (crustaceans, like shrimp and lobster, and fishes) stews, and in desserts. In particular, several dishes from Bahia are known to use both coconut milk and palm oil.

Medicinal properties

Coconut milk is considered very healthy in Ayurveda. Some people believe that coconut milk can be used as a laxative. It is also used for healing mouth ulcers In a study with rats two coconut based preparations (a crude warm water extract of coconut milk and a coconut water dispersion) were studied for their protective effects on drug-induced gastric ulceration. Both substances offered protection against ulceration, with coconut milk producting a 54% reduction vs. 39% for coconut water.

Alcohol

In Rennell Islandmarker Solomon Islandsmarker local home-brew is made by fermenting coconut milk, yeast and sugar in a bin and leaving it hidden in the bush for about a week. This coconut rum is mentioned in the song Poppa Joe by The Sweet.

Similarly in Brazil coconut milk is mixed with sugar and cachaça to make a cocktail called Batida de Côco.

Plant growth usage

In 1943, Johannes van Overbeek discovered that coconut milk actively encourages plant growth. This was later discovered to be due to a number of factors, but predominantly the existence in the milk of a cytokinin known as zeatin. The addition of 10% coconut milk to the substrate in which wheat is grown has shown substantial improvements in yield.

Drinks

In southern China and Taiwanmarker, sweetened coconut milk is served on its own as a drink during spring and summer. It is made by adding sugar and evaporated or fresh milk during the process of preparing the coconut milk. Another Chinese drink is Coconut milk made from water, then mixed with fresh or evaporated milk in a 1:1 ratio and a spoon of Condensed Milk or sugar for each cup. They are served chilled. It is also fine to drink raw by itself, or reduced with plain water.

Drinks using coconut milk as an ingredient include

See also



References

  1. http://www.mapi.com/en/newsletters/coconut_ayurveda.html
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. Nneli RO, Woyike OA. (2008). Antiulcerogenic effects of coconut (Cocos nucifera)extract in rats. Phytother Res. 22:970-972.
  5. (available from Google books)


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