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Nov 21, 2013 06:59 AM

coconut milk thai sauce recipes.....i need help, please

I have tried several thai sauce recipes I found on the internet, but they are somewhat lacking in flavor. They have plenty of spice, but not much taste, if that makes sense. The flavors are never quite right. I like using light coconut milk in my veggie and tofu dishes. Sometimes I use low sodium veggie broth along with the coconut milk. If any of you have easy, tasty, thai coconut milk recipes, with easy to find ingredients, I would be most happy to give them a try. Thanks for your help!

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  1. This may sound like a silly question, but are you salting as you cook? I've had food that was spicy but lacking in flavor and almost invariably it is because it doesn't have enough salt. Salt really does help bring out flavor.

    I make a lot of things that fit the bill, but I'll go ahead and give you this link since it is my husband's favorite (he gets it every year for his birthday)

    Good luck!

    8 Replies
    1. re: LulusMom

      It's not a silly question. This may be where I'm having problems. I keep thinking that soy sauce is salty and that a tablespoon or so should flavor the sauce, but it's probably not enough. I should taste more as I go along, too. Thanks for the link to your recipe. It looks really good!

      1. re: addicted2cake

        if you are cooking thai, you should be using fish sauce in many dishes too. with soy or fish sauces, you can get a lot of umami and salty flavor, and usually i find i don't need additional salt WHEN i use the proper amounts. are you following the recipes or winging it?

        1. re: alkapal

          Yes. Use fish sauce.

          And ditch the lite coconut milk. It's terrible, sorry.

          1. re: C. Hamster

            I'll look for some. Thanks. I usually sub soy sauce for fish sauce, but maybe the fish sauce will better enhance the flavor. Light coconut milk is now history!

          2. re: alkapal

            I look at the recipes, see what I have in the house, and kind of wing it. Guess that's not the best way to go.

            1. re: addicted2cake

              soy sauce and fish sauce do not have similar flavors.

              and you may want to use low-sodium chicken broth to control salt, but i find it virtually flavorless. since it is rarely reduced by any volume in thai uses, i don't have any problem with salt concentration. i think even worse in flavorlessness is the LS veggie broth.

              but…try different combos to see what *you* like.

              1. re: addicted2cake

                No winging it! Until i have made a number of recipes from a new ethnic cuisine i follow the exact recipe, then make and tweak the same recipe until i better understand how the flavors and textures work together.

                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  This, a million times.

                  And really, use fish sauce, not soy. Not remotely close.

        2. you already identified two of your "no flavor" problems. light coconut milk and low sodium veggie broth.

          and together? they'd be….watery blah, unless you have a heapin' helpin' of some salty soy or fish sauce and a load of aromatics like kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, fresh lime juice. (by the way, those things need to be fresh, and not dried).

          have you any asian market nearby? even small towns these days have one or two. if not, even your grocery probably won't have the "taste of thai" read-made jarred pastes, which would be better than dried stuff in EVERY case.
          fat = flavor
          salt = flavor

          don't use low-fat things and expect the best flavor. that's a fact.

          always season your food as you cook, to let the flavors develop. taste again at the end when you think you are happy. then….here's the trick (i learned from marcella hazan): take a spoonful of that and sprinkle a few grains of salt on it to see if that improves the flavor (which you thought was already "perfect").

          2 Replies
          1. re: alkapal

            Thanks for your insight and helpful advice. So light coconut milk and low sodium veggie broth are not a good combo. I can change that. I have a Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in the neighborhood. There might be an Asian market nearby......I'll have to check that out. What a neat trick! Thanks for sharing that with me.

            1. re: addicted2cake

              I personally like using low sodium veggie broth, but then I add my own salt to taste (and add fish sauce or soy sauce for Asian dishes). So I don't think you should stop buying low-sodium veggie broth, since that way you can control salt yourself.

              An easy meal I've been making lately is a salmon yellow curry with noodles. I wrote about it here:

              Basically, make a Thai yellow curry, add in some kaffir lime leaf if you have it, and then cook your salmon in the broth. Serve over rice noodles (but this would work with any kind of noodle, or rice).

          2. I would ditch the "lite" coconut milk, it's flavorless and has a terrible mouthfeel (from all the things they add to try to mimic the fat as well as being watered down.) Look for coconut milk that has only coconut listed on the label.

            1. Below is my sister's Indonesian creamy coconut curry recipe. It was developed for the pressure cooker, but if you don't have one, you could probably easily adapt it for either a slow cooker or other conventional cooking methods. All the ingredients are readily accessible.

              MODERATORS: This recipe is given in its entirety here because the recipe is my sister's original recipe and I personally wrote all the instructions, so there is no copyright issue. She / I own the "copyright" (and the only reason I'm not just linking to it directly is because its on my blog, and we're not allowed to link to our websites).

              4 split chicken breasts, boned, cut into bite size pieces
              3 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
              3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
              2 medium onions, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
              2 – 15 ounce cans of chicken broth
              2 tablespoons coconut oil (or use peanut oil)
              1 tablespoon Penzey’s sweet curry powder
              1 tablespoon minced ginger
              1 tablespoon minced garlic
              1 tablespoon light brown sugar
              1 tablespoon chili powder
              1 teaspoon ground cumin
              ¼ cup minced cilantro stems (use leaves for garnish)
              1 can of coconut milk
              2 tablespoons potato starch
              ¼ cup cold water
              White rice, jasmine rice, or Brown Jasmine Rice


              Peel and cut the onions, carrots and potatoes into bite size pieces. Mince the garlic and ginger. Mince the cilantro stems, reserving the leaves to garnish the finished dish.

              With lid OFF, start your pressure cooker on the “browning” setting. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, cumin, sweet curry powder, and chili powder. Sauté for 1 minute to bloom the spices. (This intensifies their flavor and aroma.)

              Add the onion pieces, minced garlic, minced ginger and chicken pieces and sauté for a few additional minutes, turning onion and chicken pieces using tongs.

              Add 2 cans of chicken broth, brown sugar, minced cilantro stems, potatoes and carrots to the pressure cooker pot. Lock lid. Cook at HIGH PRESSURE (10 PSI) for 6 minutes using NATURAL PRESSURE RELEASE.

              Once pressure is released, turn off the “keep warm” setting, and unlock the lid. Hold the lid over the pot, at an angle, to allow any hot liquid in the lid top to fall back into the pot and to keep steam away from you.

              In a small container, thoroughly blend the potato starch and water to create a “slurry”. Make sure the potato starch is thoroughly dissolved and incorporated into the water.

              Add the coconut milk to the pressure cooker pot. Add the potato starch slurry as well, stirring gently but constantly. The mixture should thicken up very quickly.

              Serve sweet curry over steamed rice, garnished with chopped cilantro leaves you reserved earlier. For plain white rice, you can pressure cook it really quickly. For every 1 cup of rice, add 2 cups of water. Pressure cook at HIGH PRESSURE (10 PSI) for 3 minutes, using QUICK RELEASE (brown rice takes longer, but is much healthier).


              VEGETARIAN COCONUT CURRY: Substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and substitute extra firm tofu for the chicken. You can sauté and pressure cook the tofu just the same, for the same length of time, as you would chicken pieces. The tofu will actually become more firm after pressure cooking. For extra protein and a little crunchy texture, you could also add peanuts or cashews (after pressure cooking).

              VEGETABLE COCONUT CURRY: My sister says this recipe is great for gardeners or those who want to add more vegetables in their diet. She adds mushrooms, zucchini, and any kind of squash she has in the garden (cut into bite size pieces) to this curry. She also said peas or bok choy would work, but you’d have to add them after pressure cooking. (My research says fennel and sweet potato / yams would also work well, and that sweet potatoes are used a lot in Indonesian cooking.)

              SEAFOOD COCONUT CURRY: Shellfish, fish and tuna also go well with this curry, if you want to use them. However, if you don’t have any experience with pressure cooking seafood, it can be quite easy to overcook fish in a pressure cooker, and for it to either disintegrate, or toughen. Since the length of time needed to cook potatoes and carrots is probably longer than it would take for fish, I would recommend that you pressure cook them separately, using the timetables included with your pressure cooker, or there are several excellent pressure cooking cookbooks such as Pressure Perfect or Express Cooking that cover pressure cooking fish and seafood and have useful timetables.

              5 Replies
              1. re: ePressureCooker

                WOW! Thank you very much for taking the time to share all that with me. I don't have a pressure cooker or slow cooker so would have to adapt to stove and oven. The flavors look really wonderful!

                1. re: addicted2cake

                  Don't give me that much credit for extra effort, I just copied it from the blog and pasted it, it had already been typed up long ago. ;D

                  Sis is really into Asian foods, and really good with them, and she recommends the thick (as opposed to the "thin" or "lite" coconut milk), her favorite brand is Thai Kitchen, and she recommends getting the sweet curry powder from Penzeys, she likes it better than anything else she's tried (she's fussy).

                  1. re: ePressureCooker

                    OK. Glad to know you copied and pasted - because that was alot of info!! I can get Thai Kitchen at Whole Foods. I often get catalogs from Penzey spices. I've never bought anything, but maybe I'll treat myself to the sweet curry powder.

                    1. re: addicted2cake

                      If you have the catalog, there should be a coupon for a free small jar of spice with it as well. For an even better value, buy spice by the bag, not in jars, and buy $30 worth of spices for free shipping. ;D

                2. Give a different type of broth a try - clam juice is one of my favorites. It has natural saltiness and seafood flavors and I use that instead of chicken broth in my Thai curries.

                  This is the recipe that set me on the clam juice path, give it a try. Adding lemongrass here will add some depth to your curry dish. Using glass noodles instead of rice is also amazing (note that the use of glass noodles here is why the ratio is 2 cups clam juice to 1 can coconut milk).


                  You can find clam juice at any big American supermarket chain. I use it quite often and actually ended up buying mine in big cans at Smart & Final.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: bobabear

                    Thanks, bobabear. I keep Kosher, so I'm afraid I can't experiment with clam juice. I remember how delicious clam juice is, as I wasn't always kosher and used it for many recipes. It would certainly add some natural saltiness to my recipes, as you said. I'll have to stick with veggie and chicken broths.

                    1. re: addicted2cake

                      Give Kosher fish stock from bullion cubes a try!

                      I went to Sweden/France a bunch for work this year and they have SO many different bullion flavors in their stores than we offer here. Mushroom, veal, herbs, etc. Bought a lot of different types and I love using them in my favorite dishes to have the flavors be different and interesting every time.

                      1. re: bobabear

                        Thanks again! Site looks very interesting. Just may give one of these items a try.

                        1. re: addicted2cake

                          also, better than bouillon fish base:

                          (fyi for passover they also have kosher for passover chciken base and vegetable base: ).

                          but if i'm using fish sauce i don't want fish base unless it is seafood protein in the dish.

                        2. re: bobabear

                          Knorr, I think, makes some different flavor boullions that they sell at a Mexican market here. Cilantro, parsley, onion, garlic, chipotle (?), and I think a couple others.