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I have several recepies which call for cracking coconut cream (Thai curries).

I used to just fry the curry paste and add coconut cream (or coconut milk) which produces reasonable results, but on reading the recipes again I realized that I was not making it correctly.

My more recent attempts at starting with coconut milk have resulted in it being more poached than fried, still nice but I feel that I am missing something.

As far as I can tell if you simmer the cream for long enough the oil should separate out and you are able to fry in it. But I can't seem to get this to happen. Am I being impatient or am I doing something fundamentally wrong?

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Andy Rickers Pok Pok cookbook has some advice: he says boxed coconut cream (UHT) is best, bring cream to boil the. Simmer for 3-10 minutes. So I tried this and faced the same issue you did the first time I tried to crack coconut cream. I was staring at it for like 15 minutes waiting for something to happen.. Short answer, I wasn’t cooking it hot enough. You don’t want “high heat” but you I needed to go well into medium-high (7 out of 9 on my crappy electric stove). Make sure it really simmers. You want bubbles. You will need to stir often (I stirred almost continuously but I think this was nerves). You’ll know it when it starts to work.

  • Welcome to the Stockpot, Thanks for the tip I'll give it a go. – Jeremy French Mar 4 at 13:28
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Two things I know can make this difficult: using low-fat coconut milk, or using coconut milk that has had an emulsifier added to it (check the ingredients). Also, you may just not be cooking it long enough or at high enough of a temperature. I think you will really like the results when you get this to work, the curry comes out less gelatinous and more flavourful.

  • Most "coconut cream" is full of emulsifiers, particularly polysorbate 60 and also - this is really fun for high-temp frying - some type of methylcellulose. I've found that stuff to only really be useful for (a) cocktails and (b) cream fillings. Coconut milk would seem to be the way to go, I think standard is 18% fat. – Aaronut May 17 '11 at 23:24
  • Thanks for the tips, I tried organic coconut cream with no emulsifiers and still no luck cracking, perhaps I wasn't heating it enough. – Jeremy French May 24 '11 at 10:30
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It's possible that your recipes mean creamed coconut, which is different to coconut cream. It's the dehydrated meat of the coconut and is extremely oily. It comes in a crumbly block and it melts like butter over heat.

  • This wouldn't surprise me; a lot of people get those confused, and I've never seen coconut cream in a Thai recipe but I do often see creamed coconut. – Aaronut May 17 '11 at 23:28
  • I checked definitely coconut cream, but thanks for explaining the difference. – Jeremy French May 24 '11 at 10:31
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Cracking coconut cream does indeed refer to the technique of separating the oil from the solids contained in the cream.

I have posted an authentic curry method that uses the cracking technique in another post. It is based on the technique of David Thompson.

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