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Monday, October 20, 2014

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Kosher coconut milk great for curry chicken dishes

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On a late Friday afternoon, Nina Kagan stands at the stove stir-frying chicken in a large skillet. The York University student spends most Friday nights with various families in the Aish HaTorah community, but on this day, she’s home for Shabbat preparing a Thai dish for her family.

To make the curried chicken sauce creamy, Kagan uses milk. Yes, milk, but it’s pareve. Her recipe calls for coconut milk, a dairy-free food that’s been a staple of South-Asian cuisine for centuries.Coconut milk – it comes in a can – has long been available in North American. However, kosher coconut milk has been on store shelves in the Greater Toronto Area for only about a year.

East West Foods (www.eastwest-food.co.il), an Israeli food importing company, introduced a kosher Asian line called Taste of Asia in Israel three years ago, and this brand can now be found in the GTA. The main products offered are light and regular canned coconut milk, which the company calls Coconut Liquid and Coconut Liquid Gold, respectively, and red or green curry paste.

These products are not widely available in the GTA. They can be found in some independent kosher supermarkets and the kosher sections of a few grocery chain stores. In midtown Toronto, Loblaws in Forest Hill and Fortino’s on Lawrence Avenue West carry the milks and pastes.

In the Bathurst and Wilson area, they are sold at No Frills, Kolbo Kosher Foods and Kosher City Plus, and further north in Toronto, at Price Chopper at Bathurst and Cedarcroft and No Frills at Centerpoint Mall.

In Thornhill, you’ll find Taste of Asia products at Sobeys, Taste of Israel and the No Frills on Centre Street.

The light coconut milk is 66 calories and has 5.7 grams of fat per100 ml, while the same quantity of the higher-fat version is 115 calories with 12 grams of fat. The curry pastes, which are roughly 220 calories with about 20 grams of fat per 100 ml, are sold in 195-ml jars.

Negba Eckerling, the Israeli import co-ordinator for Taste of Asia products, told The CJN in a recent phone call that the company imports the coconut milk from Thailand because it is the “highest quality.” She stressed that the kosher certification is authorized by the chief rabbinate of Israel.

Eckerling said that initially, only foreigners in Israel used coconut milk and other East Asian foods. But over the years, Israelis began to develop a taste for Asian food, and that has led to a growing demand for kosher Asian products like coconut milk and curry paste.

Unlike kosher coconut milk, kosher coconut oil has been on the market for years and is available at many health and bulk food stores. The oil comes in a jar, because it is solid at room temperature. Orphelia, Spectrum and Omega Nutrition are brands with hechshers and they’re all organic. Coconut oil is a saturated, stable fat that can be used for cooking and frying.

NINA KAGAN’S RED CURRY CHICKEN

1 onion, chopped
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced
1 package frozen broccoli or 1 1/2 cups fresh broccoli, cut into florets
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
1/2 cup water chestnuts
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced in strips
2 to 4 tbsp. olive oil
2 14-oz. cans coconut milk
1 heaping tbsp. red or green curry paste
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. paprika
2-3 tbsp. brown sugar
salt for seasoning
1 tsp. cornstarch for thickening (optional)

In a large skillet, brown chicken (cook about 8 minutes) in 2 tbsp. olive oil on medium heat. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. Add 1 to 2 tbsp. oil to the skillet and sauté onion. Add garlic and sauté another 2 minutes. Add coconut milk, curry paste, hot sauce, paprika and brown sugar. Mix well. Let mixture boil to reduce liquid to thicken sauce. Lower heat to simmer and add red pepper, mushrooms, broccoli, snow peas and chestnuts. Cook 1-2 minutes Add chicken and simmer another 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Sauce may not thicken as well with low fat coconut milk, so cornstarch can be used for thickening. To serve, spoon chicken and vegetables over rice. Makes 4 servings.

MALAYSIAN CHICKEN CURRY

This recipe comes from A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen by Lucy Waverman (Random House Canada, 2009).

Curry Mix
1 tbsp. chopped ginger root
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 tbsp. finely chopped lemon grass, tender bulb only
1 tbsp. hot Asian chili sauce
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. ground turmeric
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
 
Combine ginger, garlic and lemon grass in food processor or pound with a mortar and pestle. When mixture is pasty add chili sauce, coriander, cumin, turmeric and oil. Mix well.
 
Chicken
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup onion, chopped,
2 lb. skinless boneless chicken breast
salt and freshly ground pepper to season
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 green chilies, seed and thinly sliced
 
Heat oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in curry mix and sauté for 1 minute until or until mixture is fragrant.

Season chicken with salt and pepper and add to skillet. Cook for 3 minutes or until chicken has browned slightly. Add coconut milk, lime juice and sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until chicken is cooked. If sauce is too thin, remove chicken and boil sauce to reduce to desired thickness. If sauce is too thick, thin with coconut milk. Serve with rice and garnish with green chilies and red onion. Makes 4 servings.

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