It’s a common belief that a dish with coconut milk is always Thai. In fact, the practice of using coconut and its milk in cooking is very traditional in all the tropical and sub-tropical countries that have a shoreline where coconut is grown in abundance.
It’s believed that the light, fibrous coconuts fall into the sea and floats in the water, traveling to other areas of temperate climate. Early voyagers carried it with them to far lands and thus the coconut became a widespread popularity!
Although we see coconuts in many cuisines, there are a variety of regional recipes evolving from the use of a wide array of spices that complement the rich taste of sweet coconut milk. In India, you will see numerous ways in which a home cook or a trained chef uses coconut milk in creating a variety of delicacies. They use this divine natural food in cooking vegetables, eggs, meat, seafood, and various dessert items. Here's a very simple dish of fish cooked in coconut milk using some Indian spices.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, grated
½ tsp green chili, chopped (optional)
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 small tomatoes, chopped
½ tsp Curry Powder
½ tsp paprika
Salt to taste
½ lb tilapia fillet, raw king shrimp, or any such light fish
½ can of 15 oz coconut milk
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
1 Heat the oil in a large, heavy-base saucepan and fry the onions, garlic, and ginger over a high heat for 5-7 minutes until softened and slightly brown in color. Browning develops a nice aroma of curry.
2. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until it becomes mushy and forms a paste-like consistency.
3. Add the Curry Powder, paprika powder, chopped chili (if using), salt, sugar, and Garam Masala and cook for 2 minutes until the mixture blends well.
4. Add ¼ - ½ cup hot water (depending on the thickness of the gravy you desire) and the coconut milk. Stir well and bring it to a boil.
5. Reduce the heat and add the fish of your choice, cover, and simmer for 5-7 minutes based on the type of fish you are cooking or until the gravy becomes nicely thick in consistency and the fish is cooked.
6. Remove from the heat, adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if required and stir in the coriander leaves. Serve over plain cooked rice.
Dr. Gayatri Borthakur, a nutritionist turned entrepreneur, has a PhD in nutrition and a passion for delicious but healthy foods.