In the past, I had made versions of curries sometimes wondered why the milk was curdling. Well, my friends, you might also be enlightened after knowing the difference between coconut milk 1 and 2! They come from the same coconut, but processed and used differently 😊 The key difference is that 1 is denser and creamier than 2. Whilst dense and creamy = flavor, coconut milk 1 thickens fast with cooking and therefore can be difficult to manage for dishes requiring long cooking time (>30 mins). Fret not, the more diluted but still flavorful coconut milk 2 will save your day. A combination of both works best, with good timing. As such, I like to use coconut milk 2 first and then a dash of coconut milk 1, 10 to 20 mins before the end of cooking.
Guidance and method
First, the right type of coconut. Not the king coconut or thai coconut you’re drinking right now. The coconut you want is hairy/husky on the outside with a thick, hard flesh on the inside. Breaking this coconut requires abit of physics combined with a surmountable amount of experience (and anger channeling). If you get it right, all it takes is one slam! of your butcher’s knife, and there you have it, a broken coconut. Keep the husk for fire, if you have an open kitchen – otherwise, use as a shell for plants or compost. In Sri Lanka, they use a mechanical coconut grater which – after 3 attempts on 3 different occasions – was taken away from me as “I was not doing it right”. Thankfully, times have evolved and you can go to your wet market and get it freshly grated from a machine (if early enough!). Coconut milk goes “off” within a day from my experience so either a) only buy it on the day you are cooking and store in the fridge or b) freeze the remainder for when the time comes.
Coconut milk 1: Add 1 part freshly grated coconut into a blender with 1 part hot water (some people still do this by hand!). Blend until creamy consistency is attained. Using a strainer, extract the milk. The coconut shreds remaining on the strainer will have lots of milk left, so squeeze with your hands to expel it all out.
Coconut milk 2: Coconut milk 2 is made exactly like coconut milk 1. The exception is to use the remainder coconut shreds from coconut milk 1 (post juicing), add the same amount of water again, blend and then strain.
After all that trouble, why wouldn’t we just buy coconut milk from the store and add water? You definitely can but being a purist, I have to argue the flavours are enhanced with a fresh coconut, plus some arm work during lockdown is always healthy for you. But, do what’s best within your means. Food will always taste delicious, if made with the best intentions 😊
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