I like Chaokoh because it tastes creamiest and is reasonably priced, anywhere between 59 cents to 79 cents a can. I've tried a few other brands and just didn't think they tasted as creamy. Also, Chaokoh is very popular so it may sometimes be found in American grocery stores. I'd love to try the boxes of fresh coconut milk I also see on the shelf, but they cost several dollars for the equivalent of the 79 cents can of Chaokoh.
The Chao Thai Brand coconut cream powder is just the cheaper of two brands that I see at the San Gabriel Superstore, where I do most of my grocery shopping. The 5.6 oz box costs $1.49 and contains enough powder to equal about 3 or 4 cans of coconut milk. The Rasa Enak coconut milk powder that I tried from Asian Supermarket 365 is actually creamier, and at 85 cents is still reasonably priced. Chao Thai is just more readily available for me.
As you can see, the coconut is in powder form. Depending on your desired level of creaminess, add 1 to 3 tblsps of coconut powder per cup of water. I tend to use 3 tblsp per cup. In some recipes, I prefer powder to coconut milk because I can control the creaminess level better such as for Vietnamese desserts and coconut rice. Sometimes I only need half a can of coconut milk so the powder is less wasteful. Cooking rice with coconut milk requires a bit more work to prevent it from becoming mushy. Whereas I simply add 3 tblsps of coconut powder per cup of rice and cook as normal in the rice cooker, stirring the powder to mix evenly. Quick and easy.
Lastly, Coco Rico is artifically-flavored coconut soda. I use it to braise Vietnamese pork and fish. My mom saves it just for cooking. But me, I'm an addict. I keep it around so I can drink it straight from the can. Fresh coconut juice would be ideal, of course, but Coco Rico has a longer shelf life. If you do want to use fresh coconut juice, UnHip LA posted my directions for how to cut open a young coconut.
I admit, price is the motivating factor in my kitchen. I'd rather spend a reasonable amount of money for a reasonable amount of quality. I'm not willing to pay twice or thrice the cost unless the quality is also twice or thrice better.
What are the preferred brands in your pantry? Do you like something else?
Some of my recipes that feature either coconut milk, coconut powder, or Coco Rico:
Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Catfish in a Claypot)
Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry)
Che Bap (Vietnamese Dessert Soup with Corn and Tapioca Pearls in Coconut Milk)
Che Dau Trang (Vietnamese Pudding with White Beans and Sticky Rice in Coconut Milk)
Fruit-shi ie. Dessert Sushi
Gaeng Kiaw Waan (Thai Green Curry with Thai Eggplants)
Ginataang Kalabasa at Sitaw (Filipino Squash and Long Beans in Coconut Milk)
Mango Chicken Curry
Mangoes with Sticky Rice - Vietnamese-Style
Thit Heo Kho Voi Dau Hu (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Tofu)
Thit Heo/Lon Kho Voi Trung Hoac Gai Chua (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Eggs or Pickled Mustard Greens)
Tom Kha Gai (Thai Galangal and Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk)
1 year ago today, Kabuki Japanese Restaurant - Pasadena (Foothill Blvd.).