What brand of coconut milk for Thai curry dishes?
A recipe calls for "good quality coconut milk", but there seems to be zero distinction between the 3 brands sold in my local store. Can anyone recommend a good brand?
The standard recommendation is Chaokh (sp?). It has a full flavor and plenty of fat. But it also has preservatives. Mae Ploy, which also gets recs, also has preservatives I believe.
If you go preservative-free try Thai Kitchen or any other brand at trader joes or whole foods, but the flavor doesn't seem quite as coconutty and creamy.
Because of the lack of quality control, there is no such thing as a good brand of coconut milk. Over the years, I've bought just about every brand there is and they all have good and bad batches. Now, when I say 'good' and 'bad,' my criteria for judging is mostly fat content/thickness.
I take steps towards standardizing my coconut milk by heating the cans gently in a 100 deg F. oven for a couple of hours, letting them cool and then refrigerating them. When I cook with them, I poke holes in the bottom and let the watery liquid drain out, leaving me with thick creamy milk. Sometimes I end up with as much as 3/4 can, but I've seen instances where only 1/4 can was left. With this method, I get a relatively standard fat content/thickness.
There is, in fact, a vast difference in quality, but good brands are also consistent. Chakoah is great if you can find it, both in terms of flavor and texture. The preservatives are generally citric acid or malic acid, fruit acids that prevent the color and flavor from changing too much in the can.
The best way to tell is to compare the calories and/or fat for a given serving (make sure you are comparing the same weight or adjusting for the difference). The less calories or fat for the same serving, then the more watered down it is...
If you can get it, buy your coconut milk and cream in a box instead of a can. The taste is far superior as the box does not affect the flavour, unlike the aluminum of a can, which definitely does alter the taste.
If I have to use canned, which is seldom, I typically buy Savoy coconut cream (rich, with an excellent taste), or Two Elephants coconut milk (which is preservative free). I make most of my curries purely with Savoy coconut cream, and they're always a huge hit.
Well, the experts would say none are good because the canning/pasteurisation process effects the quality, and metal taints the taste (so use cartons in preference to cans). David Thompson (the Thai guru) recommends blitzing shelled and peeled fresh coconut in your food processor and then straining this through muslin, the cream floats to the top and the milk is the thin stuff below. The texture and flavour is better.
Cream and milk are not interchangeable, cream is best used (after cracking) to fry the spice paste i.e. you want to dry out as much moisture before you fry. The milk is used to dilute the dish in the final stages of cooking.