May 1, 2012
I know it’s been almost two months since I visited Bangkok, but I didn’t want to deprive y’all of the wonder that is Thai sweets and desserts. So here’s a quick run down of the sugary delights we sampled in Bangkok.
Us folk who don’t live in Thailand are truly hard done by as it’s very difficult to find Thai desserts on menus apart from fried bananas and canned lychees. Occasionally I faint with joy when I find mango and sticky rice on the menu and will even forgive the unripe mango and tasteless coconut milk because I’m so desperate for the flavours. So the first thing we do when we reach Bangkok is go to Mango Tango in Siam Square near out hotel.
And get a plateful of khao niew ma muang (mango and sticky rice).
I could have eaten the whole plate by myself (I think my mother did) but I shared it with Dad as he’s on sugar watch. The mango was just perfectly ripe, the sticky rice was chewy and the coconut cream drizzled over it balanced the sweetness with its saltiness. Just perfect every time.
One of the things you most definitely won’t find outside Thailand also happens to be my favourite Thai sweet: look choob. I never knew what it was called until I asked my mum’s Thai friend, bad me. It’s available pretty much everywhere that sells fresh Thai sweets and desserts, department store food halls and occasionally on the street. We found a wonderful stall in the MBK Center.
But we bought our fix in the food hall at Siam Paragon.
Look choob is essentially green bean paste mixed with coconut milk and sugar, encased in a thin layer of jelly and molded into miniature fruits. It still remains my favourite Thai sweet since I was kid. It’s so colourful and playful like little jewels.
A miniature mangosteen — like a work of art.
Although it’s tempting to just put the whole thing in your mouth, you also want to know what it looks like inside. It’s kind of similar to shiro-an (white bean paste) but with a coconut twang.
There’s also chilli.
Although they come as a variety of Thai fruits and vegetables, they all essentially taste the same which is good, as they’re delicious.
As we were on a sweet binge, we also got some khanom chan.
These are steamed cakes made with rice and tapioca flour, coconut milk, sugar and often fragrant with pandan leaves, jasmine flower water or orange blossom water. Traditionally they are nine-layered but we got cute little mini ones.
I often used to have fun peeling each layer and eating them separately. But these were so small and chewy and were all gone in a few seconds. It’s hard to stop when you’re greedy.
And we also got some khanom thuay which is easily found in Chinatown in London.
This one is coconut cream set on jelly-like sticky rice, flavoured with pandan leaves and often flecked with tiny pieces of sweetened water chestnut. However, in this instance, we were pleasantly surprised to find some sweet tapioca inside too. The saltiness of the coconut wonderfully complements the sweetness of the sticky rice and tapioca. Drool.
We also came across a lady making khanom buang and couldn’t resist trying one that was hot off the griddle. These are thin pancakes filled with coconut cream or golden strands of sweetened egg. So light, crisp and moreish.
We also bought some khanom krog on the street.
These are like little flat takoyaki but made from a soft coconut milk batter with a crispy outside and a still runny inside and topped with a selection of yam, sweet corn or spring onions.
They were more salty than sweet but definitely one to try. It reminded me a little of the sweet coconut hoppers that are popular in Sri Lanka and India.
And as you can imagine in one of the world’s most sophisticated eating cultures, you’ll find that most restaurants and food courts offer a variety of desserts including one of my favourites which I always have in London.
That’s right, I have a weakness for sago in coconut milk. We ordered this one in Coca.
It came warm and had HUGE chunks of soft young coconut flesh. And unlike in London, there was more sago than coconut milk!
We also sampled some durian with sticky rice drizzled with coconut milk at the food court in Terminal 21.
One of things I really miss since leaving Thailand 20 years ago is that I cannot find proper, creamy, fresh coconut ice cream. I’m always on the lookout but every time I taste a spoonful of desiccated, fake coconut ice cream, I edge a little closer to despair. Seriously, can’t someone make it in London?? So it’s a good thing I had an amazing scoop at the Chatuchak Weekend Market.
So cheap, so delicious and with chunks of young coconut and very refreshing in the heat. We were allowed two toppings of which I chose sweet corn and palm seeds. I just love sweet corn in my ice cream. This is a MUST in Bangkok. I wish I’d eaten a cup every day.
And I’ll leave you with a shot of nam som, the fresh orange juice you get in Thailand that is nothing like the orange juice you get in the west. Seriously sweet. It’s funny to think we managed to eat all of this plus meals in just four days…
Suggested reading in Bangkok: John Burdett’s mystery series beginning with Bangkok Eight featuring the Buddhist anti-hero, Inspector Sonchai Jitpleecheep, half-Thai, whose mother is a lady of the night. Brilliant, entertaining, irreverent and you’ll learn more than you want to know about the complex nature of modern Thai society and culture.