I've tried making coconut milk by soaking dried, shredded coconut overnight, then blending and straining the liquid. While this does contain a hefty amount of coconut fat and a distinct (but not very fresh) taste of coconut, it fails to make any of my thai curries nice and creamy like in the restaurants. Is my homemade coconut milk doomed to be like this?
I guess it's possible that my coconut just isn't very fresh, since it's from the bulk bin of my supermarket. I also blend it using a magic bullet. Perhaps this isn't strong enough to coax out all the creamy goodness?
update: I bought some fresher coconut flakes (brand:Let's Do Organic) and the coconut milk was much tastier! Not quite good enough to drink on its own, but it made my curry taste awesome!
Another option is to use "coconut cream" in your curries. Let's Do Organic makes this product which is exactly the same as coconut manna or coconut butter by other companies, at about 1/3 the cost! It's packaged in vacuum sealed "bricks" you have to soften in warm water, knead, and then squeeze out of the bag. All it is is ground coconut. Nothing else.
I was skeptical but adding a few tablespoons to a hot liquid gives you a coconut milk like product, and the box suggests using it in things like curries.
I'm not thrilled about the plastic packaging, but otherwise this is a good product.
If you are making a coconut curry, I have found lightly browning coconut flakes in coconut oil first, then adding the rest as you normally would really brings out the flavour. If you are going to add coconut milk, add it last once everything is cooked (I find cooking it decreases flavour). Hope this helps somehow.
The blog The Paleo Mom has a good recipe for homemade coconut milk. The key is to not soak overnight....but instead use fresh dried flakes and HOT water (or better yet, hot 100% pure coconut water). The hot extraction process removes more fat from the dried flakes, making the milk creamier. However, when cooled, the fat will separate to the top because there are no added thickeners & emulsifiers. It will taste amazing & creamy in curries.
I personally think that coconut milk tastes better using coconut water instead of plain water...the natural sugars and electrolytes in the coconut water balance the richness of the fatty coconut milk. Which is funny, because I think coconut water on it's own is too sweet & salty, but also that coconut milk made with plain water has a weird taste. Just be careful when you heat the coconut water as it does contain natural sugars that could burn/caramelize if overheated. And using coconut water instead of plain water is more important if you're going to eat the coconut milk plain or in ice cream, instead of curries.