From Burmese khow suey to Kerala’s mutton stew, a wide variety of delicacies have one ingredient in common — coconut milk. Loved across the world for its unique flavour and creamy consistency, it finds its way into curries and desserts alike. Even vegan dishes are elevated with coconut milk, due to it being lactose free.
When it comes to coconut milk-based recipes, certain parts of India, especially the Konkan coastline and Kerala, lead the way.
Konkani cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian, and coconut has been a very essential ingredient in most of its flavourful recipes. A traditional Konkani fare is often considered incomplete without the use of coconut, especially its milk, which is used across delicious seafood dishes to refreshing drinks.
And its prowess is not limited to just food. Since time immemorial, grandmothers have been swearing by coconut milk for healthy hair and skin. While often misunderstood as unhealthy, the milk holds a long list of benefits.
Coconut milk is packed with Vitamin C, E, B1, B3, B5, and B6, as well as iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, which help in protecting the body from several infections and viruses. Coconut milk contains significant amounts of fat, but are mostly in the form of medium-chain fatty acids like lauric acid.
“Coconut milk contains a good concentration of lauric acid, which is also found in a mother’s milk and is known to promote brain development, bone health and immunity,” Dr Mukta Vasishta, H.O.D. Nutrition and Dietetics, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, told NDTV Food.
Here’s a list of benefits of coconut milk, as told by nutritionists and experts:
1. Helps in restoring dry and damaged hair
Coconut milk can be used as a tonic for dry, itchy and irritated scalp. This helps in restoring dry and damaged hair with brittleness and split ends. “Massaging the scalp with coconut milk for about five minutes, followed by a hot towel, can give a nourishing effect,” Dr Rahul Nagar, Max Hospital, told NDTV.
2. Helps in hair growth
Coconut milk also promotes hair growth as it contains several essential nutrients for boosting hair follicles, thereby stimulating hair growth. Massaging one’s hair with coconut milk for 3 to 5 minutes and shampooing after 20 minutes is recommended.
3. Helps in conditioning hair
Just like coconut oil, milk is also a good conditioner for hair. It can be used with equal amounts of shampoo while washing your hair, or as a leave-in conditioner. Besides adding volume to the hair, it also makes it less greasy.
4. A good makeup remover and a facial scrub
Coconut milk can be an excellent makeup remover and is suitable for all skin types. It can be used as is, or mixed with olive oil to serve the purpose. Other than cleansing, it also nourishes skin deeply.
“Coconut milk can also be used for gentle exfoliation. All you need to do is soak oats in the milk for 10 minutes,” DrRahul Nagar said.
5. Helps in preventing acne
The fats in coconut milk do not clog skin pores. It is an excellent cleanser for people with oily or acne prone skin as it holds antibacterial properties.
6. Helps in preventing premature ageing
Coconut milk is rich in vitamins like C and E, which help maintain the skin’s elasticity. It is also rich in copper, and hence prevents wrinkles, sagging skin and age spots.
7. Helps in treating sunburns
It can be a natural treatment for soothing sunburned skin. Applying it to the affected area can reduce the redness and stinging and give a cooling effect to the skin.
8. Helps in moisturising the skin
Replacing normal milk with coconut milk for a milk bath can work as a good moisturiser for the skin. Coconut milk can be mixed with rose petals and rose water to enhance the soothing effect and helps in restoring moisture to dry skin.
9. Helps treat skin ailments
One of the best things about coconut milk is that it is suitable for all skin types, from sensitive to oily skin. Owing to its soothing properties it can be used to treat dry and irritated skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis.
Know how to make coconut milk at home
Here’s a traditional recipe using coconut milk:
Sol Kadhi is a Konkani style summer drink that can be served along with everyday meals.
Kokum (Malabar tamarind) – 12
Fresh coconut – 1 cup
Green chilli – 1
Garlic – 2 cloves
Coriander -2 tablespoon
Cumin Powder- 1/2 teaspoon
Salt, to taste
Mint Leaves for garnish
- Soak the kokum pods in 1/2 cup warm water for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Squeeze the pods to extract the juices, drain the pods and retain the warm water with the extract in it.
- Smash the green chilli, cumin seeds, garlic cloves, coriander leaves and salt together.
- Blend the freshly grated coconut with enough water in a mixer-grinder to make a smooth paste.
- Strain the paste through a fine sieve to extract fresh coconut milk from it.
- Mix the extracted milk, kokum concentrate, crushed garlic and chilli spice paste in a bowl and stir well to combine.
- Taste it and adjust the seasoning as required.
- Garnish the Solkadhi with mint leaves or chopped coriander and serve chilled with the meal.