Dumb Question about Coconut Cream and Milk

Welcome to the hungry onion. Can’t wait to hear about your Chinese Curries.

My Chinese curry mainly is for chicken but I often add rabbit and add some pork ( like the cut with bones such as country style ribs or pork chops as opposed to bonelesss pork)
Usually, my mother’s version is to brown the meat in peanut oil, then place the meat in a French oven, add 2-3 caramelized onions , lots of garlic , ginger root that has been pealed and smashed with cleaver, ( I never cut them into strip) as well as hot pepper, bay leaf, freshly grounded peppercorn and a few whole peppercorn, added to the browned meat, , add Javin brand curry powder, by the tablespoonful. Typically, no vegetables as with red panang thai curry.
Then, I add some water, and being from the Philippines, add coconut milk, reserving the creamy part till the meat are almost tender, the sauce thickened. .
I add Javin curry powder to my taste ( a few tablespoon full at a time ) as well as hot peppers as the Javin curry is not spicy enough for me.
Once it comes to a boil, I simmer it. The bones of the chicken, rabbit and pork gives a thicker delicious gravy
Once the meat are tender, the sauce thicker, I add the coconut cream and I add cannon vanilla yogurt, enough to give it a slight sweet taste and to take the bitterness away., simmer for another 15 minutes or more to blend in. If the meat are tender, the sauce still not thick enough to my taste, and wanting the meat to stay whole for presentation as opposed to meat that are macerated, I would dissolve a tablespoon or more of sweet potato starch ( you can use corn starch) to 1/4 cup of water and add it to to the gravy for thicker sauce.
Serve this with rice .
Sorry I do not measure when I am cooking but usually, for a whole chicken, a small rabbit and some pork, I would use 2 cans of 13.5 oz chaokoa brand coconut milk, and have on hand a small dannon vanilla yogurt to add to the sauce when it is almost cooked.
I love lots of gravy to serve with rice.
You can order this in most Chinese restaurants or even in Asian Supermarket that has food bar but I think my version is best.
The other Chinese curry that I use is Singapore Noodles although it is weird as it is not Singapore in origin to my knowledge. My mother always cook rice noodles but never added curry. I was introduced to Singapore noodles here in the US. and I love it.

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replied to Thimes. Hope you can try that recipe
Sorry, I do not measure when I cook

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Thank you all so much for your thoughts and help. I did use the Coconut Milk which was mostly cream. This was a valid rendition of a Massaman curry… and there is enough left for dinner tomorrow as well.

Report can be found here:

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May I respectfully disagree with those who say that the separated elements sometimes found in a can of coconut milk are the milk and the cream? No. They are the result of the can sitting on a shelf for a long time. You need to carefully transfer the entire contents to (say) a jug and then blend them. I use a fork to beat the liquid/solid mix to a smooth consistency. Then you have useable coconut milk.

Coconut cream is a different product. It may be somewhat similar to the solids in a can of Cmilk, but the thin watery liquid from the can is most certainly not Cmilk.

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Or, you can do what everyone I know does and just shake the can/carton vigorously before opening. :wink:

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Yes, sometimes. But often a proper stir-up is needed, I find.

I respectfully disagree that the separated elements found in a can of coconut milk is not coconut milk and cream. Coconut milk is an emulsion of two fluids: coconut cream and coconut water. At cooler temperatures, coconut milk separates into its components, and the cream rises to the top
True , it is the result of the can sitting on a shelf for a long time, but when it does, the cream , which is the paste like consistency floats to the top. Bonus Science Nerdiness: Fat is hydrophobic ( water fearing) and is rejected from the watery layer.

When it’s prepared via blending, the fat component – often called coconut cream – gets suspended in the watery component, and it appears to combine. But when left to sit undisturbed, the coconut milk will separate into two layers much like a bottle of oil & vinegar salad dressing.

Some manufacturer would add an emulsifier ( guar gum , carrageen, corn starch etc) to prevent this separation, but most manufacturers do not. If they do, perhaps adding air bubbles to it such as in making home made mayonnaise will do it.

Yes, you can stir it up after you open the can if you desire or just scoop up the cream but I generally use the milk ( liquid part) when I am cooking initially and then add the cream after the curry is simmering for a while as the cream is the workhorse .

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What? Me?

There is no way to delete a comment so it isn’t seen (that I know of)

I answered before I completely read the other responses and I repeated a thought.

So I edited it to be delete rather than look like an idiot who doesn’t completely read things before responding.

This is done pretty often here.

I sure didn’t mean to be rude!! Sorry if you thought I was.

I was not responding to massaman curry even though it happens to be my personal favorite.

P.S. My profile picture looks good blown up like that!

I am too sensitive I guess, and being a newcomer, especially so
just stumbled into these cooking discussion when I was looking for answers to cookware collection and got hooked reading
I do not have DELETE but rather have the words CANCEL or SAVED

TL;DR but when coconut milk separates, you get coconut cream and coconut flavoured water not coconut milk. I’ve used about a dozen brands of coconut milk and only Twin Elephants brand doesn’t separate into cream and water.

FYI @C.Hamster @ccj or others, you can always ask a moderator to delete your post to avoid this “delete” upset situation.

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I think we talk about these things like they are actual things … it isn’t that different than dairy milk. If you take real milk from the cow and let it sit, it separates. What is on top we have called “cream” and what is left we call “milk”. Now with modern technology you can get skim, 1%, 2%, etc etc - which are then processed to prevent the “cream” from separating out.

The same happens with coconut. The ones that don’t separate have additives to stop it from separating.

So what is left with those that separate is “milk” but you’re right it is more watery than having the fat mixed back into it.

What to use depends on what you’re doing and personal tastes - just like dairy milk …

I hae a cancel on my computer next to reply
Sometimes, when I cannot upload pictures as of the past few days, I just cancel
When I have too many typo errors and do not feel like editing, I do the same thing,I just cancel my post
Anyway, I think will be too busy to continue on

Yes, there is a cancel button next to the reply button, but ‘cancel’ only works before you hit reply and complete the post. Once a post has been made and is visible online, there is no more ‘cancel’.

Many commercial coconut milks have emulsifiers to keep them from separating. There are only a couple coconut milks out there that do not add anything to the milk. I use Kara brand coconut products, but they do add an emulsifier to it (but I like the flavor of the overall product).

Coconut milk naturally separates. The fat in the milk floats to the top, just like oil and water. That’s why you shake the can to emulsify it again.

I cook a lot of Malaysian recipes, and many of the recipes ask for “thin coconut milk” or “thick coconut milk”. The thick milk is the first squeeze of the coconut and hot water. Then you add hot water again to the squeezed coconut, and that second soak makes thin coconut milk. Since I use canned coconut milk, I use the milk straight from the can for thick coconut milk, and add some water to it if I need thin coconut milk. Always works well. I don’t really make recipes that specifically ask for coconut cream, but even if I did, I would just use the canned/carton milk. For most recipes, it doesn’t make a big difference.

“Anyway, I think will be too busy to continue on”

Does that mean you’re going off HO? It would be our loss for a newcomer to leave. I’ve got used to the fact that posts one starts or joins very often stray all over the place. I think one pretty much loses ownership of ones contribution the moment one hits “Reply”. Also, I think it’s wise to give up early on any “I’m right, you’re wrong” exchanges.

Please stay.

thanks for your kind words
I got bitten by ''COPPER FEVER" bug early this year, went to Chowhound to consult Kaleo re tin lined copper.
That is how I move over to HO
Hopefully, my collection of tin lined copper cookware is now completed.
Just looking at convos I was involved in since as I found discussions about cooking interesting
Realize that most of the members in the cooking forum are very knowledgeable, well travelled and do a lot of cooking
I only cook when my son is at home, ( he travels to Europe where his business is located) and often, when his friends hung around here.
naf helped me with uploading pictures but I am not a photographer and seldom take pictures of what I cook.
Not computer savvy, I find it hard also to navigate the site without a set of instructions.
That being said, for the time being, I will wean myself gradually from reading these interesting discussions

I vote “No”.

Sorry, you have to stay. :wink:

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There is a bit of an incorrect premise inherent in this question because of the use of canned coconut products. It has to be realized, but often is not, that canned coconut is itself a substitute ingredient – sort of like using canned chicken stock instead of real homemade stock, or evaporated milk instead of fresh milk (but probably worse). Canned coconut milk is not something that anybody who is aiming for quality and has any other choice would ever choose to use. In Malaysia or places where coconut milk is available from a local “santan” seller – a local neighborhood guy who freshly grates and squeezes coconuts – you wouldn’t use canned coconut milk unless you are lazy, indifferent to quality, or really short of time. When using fresh, the shredded coconut is steeped in water and what is squeezed out is coconut cream (the first undiluted press) or coconut milk (the further presses further diluted). The stuff in the cans is not the same product, but just a processed coconut byproduct that has been heated and otherwise mangled in myriad ways. This is why it is impossible to get good Malay, Peranakan, or Thai food outside of their homelands – this critical product is simply unavailable in most parts of the world. Spices can be transported, but nobody has figured out a good way to transport coconut milk without pasteurizing, stabilizing, dehydrating, preserving, or otherwise processing it so that it loses its most important properties. While it is perfectly possible to transport fresh coconuts, I’m unaware of any restaurant in the United States or Europe that goes through the trouble.

So to answer the original poster’s question, can you use the liquid at the bottom of the can of coconut cream, the answer is that it would be a sub-optimal practice with an already sub-optimal product. That thinner liquid is what has settled out of the cream after traveling and sitting on a shelf (figure at best a 6-12 month process) and is technically thin coconut milk, but contains settled out components of your whole coconut cream, which the cream will lack if not reincorporated. You can certainly use it this way and save a can of coconut milk, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you have a can of coconut milk handy.

By the way, I consider the tetra-pak coconut cream/milk to be slightly better than the canned. If you can find it where you live, I would recommend substituting it. If you can’t, I recommend looking for a product with minimal added gums and stabilizers.

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Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yuanyang County, Yunnan
Credit: inkelv1122, Flickr