As you can read here, the method used in my family is to use a traditional aluminium grater. As you’ll notice, it’s a pretty scary looking piece of equipment and could be very dangerous if your hands slip or when the piece of coconut gets very small! So I decided to try out the safer suction-style grater used in South Asia, which grates the coconut flesh from inside the shell.
However, the problem with both kinds of graters, especially the suction one, is that they don’t produce shreds of coconut that are fine enough. When making coconut milk, the finer the shreds, the greater the volume of milk you’ll be able to extract.
By this time I’d also developed a fascination with different types of graters: in the material and shape of the cutting surface as well as the shape of the grated items. So I splashed out on one of those Microplane box graters, which grates two sizes and comes with a knuckle protecting slider attachment which actually works! (I’ve bought graters in the past which had rather useless finger protector gadgets). The selling point of Microplane tools is that they are very sharp and started out as woodworking tools.
With the sharp blades and the knuckle protector, we can grate coconut more quickly than with our traditional spiked aluminium grater and it’s nicer using this high-quality tool than the S$6 suction crank grater which also rusts easily.
But take a look at the shape of the shreds produced by the Microplane grater:
Notice how they are broad and flat. This carrot was grated with the large holes but the shape is the same for the small holes as well. Here is a close-up of the fine grater surface:
So great new grater but back to square one with the original problem of trying to produce super-fine coconut shreds.
The solution to this, no matter which grater we use, is to go through an extra step of using a food processor to chop the coconut even more finely. This is what the final product looks like:
This coconut will now produce a good yield of coconut milk, following the extraction method I explained here.