When this month’s Kulinarya Cooking Club theme was announced, I was incredibly excited. The theme was gata, which is Filipino for coconut milk. Anything made with coconut milk was fair game, and the posts so far have covered both savory and sweet bases. With the wealth of choices available, I expected to be overwhelmed by the task of choosing just one. However, my mind pretty much made itself up for me early on, and despite my attempts to steer it toward more creative lines, it stubbornly held on to its first choice.
It’s an understandable choice, since I’m in New Jersey and have access to incredibly sweet corn grown in a field right in our town. Corn with coconut milk, or ginataang mais, is very simple to make. You don’t even need to dirty your measuring cups. We have many versions of sweet porridge-type merienda (snacks) goodies made with coconut milk, and this one is the easiest. You can enjoy it warm or cold, and although I do prefer it cold during the summer, I always end up having it warm first because I simply cannot wait that long after it’s made.
The ingredients are fairly easy to come by, too. Just fresh corn (in a pinch, you can use creamed corn, but you really should try and get fresh corn), coconut milk, sugar, water, and sweet rice.
Want a closer look at that rice? I get my sweet rice from the local Asian supermarket. If you can’t find any, you can use sushi rice or short-grain rice. But if you’re able to score a bag of sweet rice, don’t you worry about what to do with all that rice. By the time I’m done posting all the other lovely stuff you can do with it, you’ll need another bag.
I love sweet rice. It’s an ingredient in many of my favorite Filipino desserts.
This recipe is easy enough to make with kids. You just grab a pot, pour in the contents of the can of coconut milk, fill the can with water, and pour the water in. Then you fill the can halfway with uncooked rice and top off with sugar. Pour that into the pot, and then fill the can with water and pour the water in again. And again. You’ll end up with the can of coconut milk, 3 cans of water, half a can of uncooked rice, and half a can of sugar all in the pot, not to mention a fairly clean can that you can then toss into the recycling bin. The only thing left to do is to boil it until everything gets nice and soft and thick, add in the corn, and boil again until the corn is cooked.
As kids, we enjoyed this after playing outside, or when we had an unexpected day off school because of a typhoon. It’s similar to rice pudding, except for the fact that the corn and the coconut milk make it taste nothing like rice pudding. In the Philippines, we made this with fresh coconut milk, often from a coconut picked that same day from one of our trees. Fresh coconut milk gives it such a richness that is lost when using canned coconut milk. I found that adding a few extra ingredients went a long way in trying to achieve the rich taste that I remember.
It’s a great afternoon treat to throw together. And my son Tim says it’s also a wonderful midnight snack. I bet it’d be good for breakfast too, though I’ll have to make a double batch next time in order to test that theory.
Ginataang Mais (Corn with Coconut Milk)
The addition of shredded coconut, butter and vanilla is optional and not traditional. Adding them helps boost the flavor of the dish, which is typically made with fresh coconut milk instead of the canned stuff. If you are fortunate enough to have access to fresh coconut milk, omit the optional ingredients.
13.5 oz. can coconut milk
Serve warm or cold.