Coconut milk and rice flour batter being poured into a frying pan to make Serabi in Lombok, Indonesia.
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 flavour 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.