Four Thai desserts to get your lips around
Tong Yord Dessert
Take-up of desserts among westerners holidaying in Thailand tends to be low. In the absence of chocolate fudge brownies, New York cheesecake and apple crumble (though you will also find these in abundance at tourist-geared spots, particularly in Bangkok), most simply abstain from sweets altogether, and the myth prevails that ‘Thais don’t really eat dessert, they just eat fruit.’
Not true. The Thai nation has an enormous collective sweet tooth and, if you look around, the range of desserts on offer is as staggering as the selection of any other type of Thai food. From pancakes to shaved ice to coconut-y concoctions, the choice in markets around the country is enough to make your teeth ache in itself. If you have only a short time in Thailand, make sure you tuck into these four everyday Thai deserts at least once.
These delicious, two-layered jelly-like packets of coconut-y goodness might just be the best Thai dessert going; they might look discerning as they wobble unprompted on your plate, but they sure taste good. With a two-layer custardy composition of sweet, chewy coconut milk base and thick coconut cream on top, kanom tuay are truly irresistible – rice flour and arrowroot flour also go into the mix when they are being made, and some recipes also include pandan leaf to give the end result a distinct flavour and a green tinge.
The name kanom tuay comes from the fact that they are made in small, bite sized porcelain cups, and then turned out once set – making them not only very cute but all too easy to gobble down a few at a time!
Find it: Usually selling in packs of four or more and working out at around 5 baht ($0.20) per piece, you can often find kanom tuay at noodle soup stalls but standalone dessert vendors also offer them. Two good spots to try are at the market just along from All Seasons Place on Thanon Witthayu (Phloen Chit Skytrain station) or, further out from town, at the market a few hundred metres along Sukhumvit Road Soi 101/1 (between Punnawithi and Udomsuk Skytrain stations).
You’ll find bananas on every street corner, whether deep fried and crispy or grilled and juicy and glazed in a sugar syrup. But this concoction takes things to the next level – these small pieces of banana have been slowly cooked for so long and in so much sugary syrup that they almost don’t taste like banana anymore. With a firm texture that becomes chewy and juicy once you take a bite, they come in a take-away box with a small bag of slightly bitter coconut milk to drizzle over the top. The bananas soak up all its goodness, leaving pure sweet heaven.
Find it: on street corners and in markets everywhere, including a good spot in the street market just past All Seasons Place on Bangkok’s Witthayu Road, near Phloen Chit Skytrain station. A small box with coconut milk drizzle will set you back 20 baht ($0.70).
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is the one for you – Thai desserts do not come much sugarier than this. Though their bright orange color decries that they must be fruity in flavor, they are actually not – rather they are little more than egg yolk, sugar and a little flower water. With a chewy, slightly granular texture, they are pleasing but incredibly rich and filling – one or two will have you satisfied. The overwhelming sensation here is their sweetness!
Find it: on street stalls and in markets all over Bangkok and elsewhere. Expect a small plastic carton of around 20 sweet balls to cost 20 baht ($0.70).
Banana pancakes might be stereotyped as typical fare of the backpacker who travels half way across the world only to then eat nothing else, but sweet roti pancakes – less the bananas – are also a sweet staple of the largely Muslim inhabited southern provinces, and stalls selling pancakes in Bangkok and elsewhere often bear a picture of the Islamic flag.
Whatever their roots, there is little to fault a hot, sticky rolled pancake, freshly fried on the street and spun with enviable expertise – just watch the way the vendor throws the dough around to thin it out and achieve that unbeatable crispiness! Smothered in sinful condensed milk and your choice of other toppings – though often they are best eaten just as they are – this is sweet comfort food at its finest.
Grab a couple from a street-side stall and they are sure to be gone before you make it home! Depending on where you are, expect to pay between 5 and 10 baht ($0.18 – $0.35) per regular pancake drizzled with condensed milk, and more if you go for other toppings.
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