Before I became comfortable cooking with coconut milk I was not confident that I would be successful at creating tasty recipes with it. Little did I know that cooking with coconut milk is actually easier and more forgiving than cooking with cream.
Used in savory curries like Vegetable Kurma, Egg Curry, Olan, Potato Stew (Ishtu), Fish Molee and Kofta and in sweet dishes like Payasam, coconut milk is a staple in Indian cooking. Years ago people would make their own coconut milk by grinding the flesh of a fresh coconut with a bit of water and then straining it through a fine cloth. This was prepared as needed and had to be used within a few days or it would go bad. Canned coconut milk is readily available at every grocery store, inexpensive and ready when it is needed. What a great convenience.
Controversy continues as to the health benefits of coconut milk. Last year I wrote an article that compared the nutritional value of coconut milk and heavy cream, please refer to my article Is Coconut Milk Healthy from 10/10/13. The bottom line is the two are nutritionally different with similar amounts of fat and calories. Light coconut milk is also available. Recently I purchased a can of light coconut milk to compare it with the regular product. On the positive side, it is about 40 percent lower in calories, total fat, saturated fat and carbohydrates. On the negative side, the flavor isn’t there. It is runny and tasteless. When cooking with it, the light coconut milk has the same impact on curries, runny and less flavor. The egg curry with light coconut milk had a very different texture and flavor. In the future, I think I will use regular coconut milk and eat less of the curry.
Now that you know my opinion which coconut milk to use, start using it in your every day cooking. Simply add it to a sauce that normally requires cream, for example tomato sauce or onion sauce. It can be added to sautéed or steamed vegetables and a handful of fresh herbs as a sauce for pasta. Use it in dessert recipes by substituting for or mixing it with milk or water when baking or making pudding. With the heavenly flavor of coconut and the convenience that it brings to cooking, I use it as often as I can. I hope you find it as much fun as I do.