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Q&A

Why's coconut milk used to base curries?

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If you Google, you can see that many recipes use coconut milk as the "soup" base for curries. Why coconut milk though? I would've never dreamed of this mix! I would've guessed vegetable or some meat consommé as the base for curry.

Canadian Living: Fish & Seafood (2016). p 137.

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I think the word "sauce" would be better than "soup". Peter Taylor‭ 16 days ago

Insufficient research to make a substantial answer, but (a) many curries do in fact use tomato as the base. Obviously any curries which predate the arrival of the tomato in Asia will have some other base; coconuts originated in India and south-east Asia. (b) They would also almost certainly have been much cheaper than meat. (c) I wouldn't discard the possible relevance of vegetarian religions/philosophies (particularly Buddhism) in the relevant parts of Asia. Peter Taylor‭ 16 days ago

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Broth (whether vegetable or meat) is thinner -- it makes a good soup, but unless you thicken it with flour or cornstarch, it won't produce that thicker texture that characterizes curries. Broths also don't have the high fat content of coconut milk. Because of these factors, coconut milk produces a different mouth-feel than broth does.

I suspect, but do not know, that coconut milk also acts as an offset to the stronger spices in most curries, like yogurt does in other spicy dishes. (Not all curries are spicy, I know.)

Coconut milk, unlike animal milk or yogurt, also does not require refrigeration.

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