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Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the grated meat of a coconut. It can only be produced from a brown coconut. The colour and rich taste of the milk can be attributed to the high oil content. Most of the fat is saturated fat. Coconut milk is a very popular food ingredient used in Southeast Asia.
Several grades of coconut milk exist: from thick at 20-22% fat to thin at 5-7% fat level. Thick milk can be 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 mainly used to make desserts as well as rich and dry sauces. Thin milk is used for soups and general cooking. This distinction is usually not made in Western nations since fresh coconut milk is rare, and most consumers buy coconut milk in cans.
Coconut water is the watery liquid that comes from the young, still immature green coconut. Often the still jelly-like coconut meat is also added to make a tropic drink.
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 then a fat content of 17-24% depending on the fat level of the coconut meat and the quantity of added water. When refrigerated and left to set, coconut cream will rise to the top and separate out from the milk. To avoid this in commercial sold coconut milk, an emulsifier(s) and a stabiliser(s) have to be used.
Manufacturers of canned coconut milk typically combine thin and thick milk, with the addition of water as a filler. An official world standard can be found at Codex Alimentarius, STAN 240-2003.
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 creamy thickness. Some brands sold in Western countries add thickening agents and/or emulsifiers to prevent the milk from separating inside the can, since the separation tends to be misinterpreted as an indicator of spoilage by people unfamiliar with coconut milk.
Once opened, cans of coconut milk must be refrigerated and are usually only good for a few days. If not, the milk can sour and spoil easily.
Fresh coconut milk has a consistency and mildly sweet taste similar to that of cow's milk, and if properly prepared, should have little or no coconut odour. It may be consumed raw by itself, or used as a milk substitute in tea, coffee, or baking by vegans or people allergic to animal milk. It can also be mixed with fruit to make a yoghurt substitute.
Coconut milk is a common ingredient in many tropical cuisines, such as Burmese, Cambodian, Filipino, Indian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Sri Lankan, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese Malaysian and Southern Chinese, as well as Brazilian, Caribbean, Polynesian, and Pacific islands 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 Indonesian, Malaysian, Sri Lankan and 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, along with any other seasonings, meats, vegetables or garnishes.
In Indonesia, coconut milk and rice flour are the main ingredients for traditional serabi cakes.
In Brazil, coconut milk is mostly used in the northeastern cuisine, generally with seafood stews, and in desserts. In particular, several dishes from Bahia are known to use both coconut milk and palm oil.
In southern China and Taiwan, sweetened "thin" 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 diluted with 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.
In Brazil, coconut milk is mixed with sugar and cachaça to make a cocktail called batida de côco. Piña colada typically contains coconut milk or coconut cream. An eggnog called coquito con ron can be made with coconut milk (either freshly-extracted or canned).:183
In Rennell Island, Solomon Islands, 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.
|Nutritional value per serving|
|Serving size||100 g|
|Energy||824 kJ (197 kcal)|
|- saturated||18.915 g|
|- monounsaturated||0.907 g|
|- polyunsaturated||0.233 g|
|Vitamin C||1 mg (1%)|
|Calcium||18 mg (2%)|
|Iron||3.30 mg (25%)|
|Magnesium||46 mg (13%)|
|Phosphorus||96 mg (14%)|
|Potassium||220 mg (5%)|
|Sodium||13 mg (1%)|
|Zinc||0.56 mg (6%)|
|Percentages are roughly approximated|
using US recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient Database
One of the most prominent components of coconut milk is coconut oil, which the United States Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, International College of Nutrition, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, American Dietetic Association, American Heart Association, British National Health Service, and Dietitians of Canada recommend against consuming in significant amounts due to its high levels of saturated fat.
Coconut milk contains a large proportion of lauric acid, a saturated fat that raises blood cholesterol levels by increasing the amount of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol that is also found in significant amounts in breast milk and sebaceous gland secretions. This may create a more favourable blood cholesterol profile, though it is unclear if coconut oil may promote atherosclerosis through other pathways. Because much of the saturated fat of coconut oil is in the form of lauric acid, coconut oil may be a better alternative to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil when solid fats are required. In addition, virgin coconut oil is composed mainly of medium-chain triglycerides, which may not carry the same risks as other saturated fats. Early studies on the health effects of coconut oil used partially hydrogenated coconut oil, which creates trans fats, and not virgin coconut oil, which has a different health risk profile.
Coconut milk is rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which the body processes differently than other saturated fats. MCFAs may help promote weight maintenance without raising cholesterol levels.
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. It does not speed up growth in some plants such as radishes.:8 The addition of 10% coconut milk to the substrate in which wheat is grown has shown substantial improvements in yield.
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