Though somewhat time-consuming to make, fresh coconut milk is delicious and rewarding.
Start with a mature, husked coconut. The coconut water inside should splash around when shaken. Puncture the three round pores on the end of the coconut. Drain and collect the coconut water; it can be set aside for drinking or used to replace water in coconut-flavored dishes.
Next, break open the coconut by hammering along its equator until it cracks open. Try to break it in half. It may be helpful to wrap the coconut in a towel for hammering, so broken coconut pieces don’t fly all over.
Once the coconut is open, scrape out the flesh and collect it in a bowl. Using a coconut grater like the Thai kratay khud maphraw(กระต่ายขูดมะพร้าว), or “coconut-scratching rabbit,” is the traditional way in Thailand and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. This tool is essentially a low stool or board with a multi-pointed scraping blade on one end. This is the part that can seem a little tedious, but it can also be a joy!
Once the flesh is removed, combine it with about one cup of hot water. Strain through a nut bag or other porous cloth and collect the first pressing of coconut milk. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Combine the flesh with hot water and strain again for a second pressing. The coconut milk is ready! It can be used right away or stored for later.
The shredded coconut flesh can be saved and used in recipes or as a garnish. The coconut husks can also be collected for burning in a traditional stove like a Thai tao(เตา). Even the shell halves can be used as serving bowls.