Gata, or coconut milk, is a staple ingredient in many Southeast Asian countries. It’s rich, decadent, earthy, creamy, and not to mention, extremely versatile, too. Its uses cut across both savory and sweet dishes—here is everything you need to know about gata, from where to purchase it, how to store it, and how to cook with it at home.
1 Get it fresh!
The great thing about gata is that it is eaily accessible. Every major supermarket has mature coconuts in their produce section, and you can also easily find coconuts in abundance in any wet market. Coconut milk is best squeezed fresh and on the spot, so either have it squeezed in the grocery, or purchase shaved coconut meat and squeeze it yourself at home. Remember: use it right away! Fresh coconut milk spoils fast.
2 Keep it in your pantry.
Another option for stocking coconut milk at home is to purchase the canned version. You can find canned coconut milk in any major supermarket—and it keeps for months unrefrigerated! Remember to shake the can slightly before opening it. Canned coconut milk often separates, where the oil floats to the top and the heavy coconut cream sinks to the bottom.
3 Make the most delicious stews.
Almost anything is delicious cooked in gata: fish, chicken, beef, pork, and even vegetables! Some Filipino favorites are ginataang manok, ginataang hipon, and ginataang tanigue. For these dishes, the main protein cooks in gata over a low simmer.
4 Add it to braises or curries.
Coconut milk can change up your basic braises, curries, and soups in an instant. All they need is a small amount of coconut milk to become extra rich and indulgent. Try adding a dash of coconut milk to your next batch of adobo or chicken curry for a change.
5 Make dessert!
Coconut milk-based desserts are delicious! Whip up ginataang monggo or a luscious batch of maja blanca to satisfy your sweet tooth. You can also make simple ingredient swaps and try your hand at making coconut leche flan with a mix of coconut milk and coconut cream or fruity smoothie bowls if you’re a health nut!