Coconut Water is the liquid from a coconut and is a refreshing drink. Coconut milk is hardly used in cooking.
To get Coconut Milk and Coconut Cream, you take fresh coconut, add hot water, then leave to stew before squeezing to get out the resultant thicker, richer liquid. To get a thin milk, you use a larger amount of water than the smaller volume used to get coconut cream.
Coconut cream and milk come in various formats. The most useful is the thick cake of coconut cream that can be grated and mixed with water to give whatever consistency and amounts you might need for the home cook. Quicker and easier to use are the liquid forms of coconut milk and liquid that come in tins. Tinned coconut milk are great for adding to curries or soups when you are in a flat spin and needing to create a quick meal for a hungry family.
Thai curries use a large amount of coconut milk, as do those of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Coconut milk also comes in a format to substitute for cow's milk, but this should not used in cooking. The "drinking" coconut milk is often sweetened and has minerals added to mimic cow's milk, so does not give the right flavour for a curry.
- Christian, G. (2005) Real Flavours: the handbook of gourmet & deli ingredients, Grub Street. ISBN 1904943209.