Coconut milk –not to be confused with coconut water– is a thick, creamy, absolutely delicious liquid made from the grated meat of a coconut. It features heavily in Southeast Asian cuisine, but has also seen a surge of popularity in recent years among vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Though it sometimes pops up on both “good for you” and “bad for you” food lists, there are actually a lot of benefits to adding some coconut milk to your diet. It’s extremely high in fiber, vitamins (C, E, B1, B3, B5, B6), calcium and magnesium. Not to mention, it tastes super good! Of course, you can buy canned coconut milk –it’s very easy to find in any grocery store. But, as with most food, it’s way, way better if you make it fresh yourself. Turns out, it’s actually pretty simple, too. In the video below, Chef Leah Cohen, owner of Pig & Khao, shows us how to make coconut milk. Really all you need is a coconut and some good old fashion elbow grease.
Chef Cohen has an impressive resume –having both studied and worked in Italy, becoming an expert in all things Mediterranean. In New York, she worked with elite chefs at restaurants like Eleven Madison Park and Centro Vinoteca, before competing on everyone’s favorite cooking show –“Top Chef” (ok, maybe it’s not everyone’s favorite, but it should be. Padma Lakshmi is awesome). More recently, Cohen has turned her attention to the cuisines of Southeast Asia, traveling the region extensively and bringing back a mixture of flavors found in Asian street food to her restaurant Pig & Khao (lucky for us hungry New York folk). If you’re looking for some authentic Filipino dishes with influences from Thailand, Vietnam and Burma, be sure to stop by. If you get a group together in advance, you can even have a traditional “Lechon” dinner with a whole suckling pig and bottomless PBR –What?! Sign me up! In the meantime, check out the video below to learn how to bring some tasty authenticity to your curries and soups with your own homemade coconut milk.
That’s all folks! Oh yeah, you’ll also need a food processor, clever (to whack the coconut with), and cheesecloth.
1. Make sure to choose a “mature” coconut; one that is brown on the outside and feels heavy.
2. Holding the coconut so that the holes are on the side, whack it with the blunt side of cleaver, or similar object, all the way around the middle to crack it open. (It’s a good idea to hold the coconut over a bowl as you do this, to catch any of the water that spills out.)
3. Pour all the coconut water into a bowl, and set aside.
4. Use a butter knife to break off all the coconut meat from the shell.
5. Warm up the reserved coconut water. Make sure it’s not too hot, you need to be able to use your hands to massage the coconut meat in the warm coconut water.
6. Place the pieces of coconut meat (the smaller the pieces the better!) into a food processor, and blend until its finely ground.
7. Pour the warm coconut water over the ground coconut and massage it to bring out as much of the coconut fat as possible.
8. Take a double layered piece of cheescloth, and place a small amount of the coconut meat in the center. Then gather the cloth closed, and squeeze it over a bowl to wring out all that awesome coconut milk!
Let us know how your homemade coconut milk turns out! Do you have an coconut milk recipes you’d like to share with us? Chef Cohen also suggests saving the leftover coconut meat and using it for something else, like for smoking meat –any other ideas for good uses for leftover coconut meat?
Head to our Guest Chefs section for more amazing videos w/ New York’s top chefs/bartenders!
Lauren is a New York based actor/singer/writer. She is a graduate of the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University as well as the College of the Holy Cross. She’s a fan of beer, pasta, and academic establishments with unnecessarily long titles. Find her on stage, or online– she’s there often.