Five Ridiculous Things You Should Know About Thai Desserts
When I was at university studying the science of cookery there was one course in the curriculum that I had to take called “Thai Desserts,” which so happens to the be the one I dreaded the most. Being from Bangkok, I wasn’t expecting much – after all, I’ve been eating Thai desserts my whole life.
I considered the course a bit of a throwaway, and planned my schedule so the class was at the end of the day; if it was boring, I could just skip out once in a while and head home early. Surprisingly, the four-month course ended up being one of the most interesting of that semester and it certainly changed my perspectives on Thai desserts forever.
1.Poached Eggs Aren’t Just for Breakfast
Yes you heard it right, poached eggs make a delicious dessert element. One of the most popular desserts in Thailand is Bua Loy Kai Wan, which is boiled sweet glutinous flour molded into a ball and served in coconut milk, then topped with a poached egg. According to my ninety-six-year-old professor, who has been teaching Thai desserts for forty of those years, the poached egg adds depth to the dish, as well as enhancing the textural qualities. Bua Loy itself can be a bit sticky and not so sweet, but after poaching the egg in sweet syrup and sliding it on top of the Bua Loy, it makes a delicious way to end your meal.
2.Thai Desserts Take a Ridiculously Long Time to Cook
Unlike cakes and cookies, some Thai dessert take a few days to prepare and Luk Chup is a long labor of love. Made with Mung beans braised with coconut milk, Luk Chop is then sculpted into a wide variety of fruit and vegetable shapes. The process begins with soaking the Mung beans overnight to ensure the beans are soft enough to braise the following morning in coconut milk for several hours. Then while they’re still warm they are molded into the desired shape. After painting them an appropriate shade, and once they’ve dried completely, we then glaze the luk chup in gelatin for a super high gloss. By then when you’re finally finished, you can barely stand to look at these beautiful creations for another second.
3. Banana Leaves Make the Best Packaging
Hundreds of years ago, when we didn’t have plastic boxes and cardboard containers, so the most readily available and hygienic material was of course, banana leaves! For Thai desserts there are over ten ways to fold the banana leaves into food containers. Some Thai desserts are still served in banana leaves because it’s easy to cook in, as well. They’re great for sealing in ingredients for steaming, boiling, and even frying And the best part? Once opened, the leaves serve as a plate, making it the perfect take-away treat. With banana leaves, ancient Thais were “going green” before it was even fashionable.
4. Sticky Rice and Fruits Are the Best Companion
In summer, when mangoes are in their sweetest prime, Thai people love to enjoy them sliced over warm sticky rice that’s been cooked in sugar and coconut milk. Durian is another fruit Thais pair with sticky rice, but because of durian’s distinctly vile smell (many say the durian “Smells like hell but tastes like heaven,” and my editor says the fruit smells like “ass, feet, and vomit”), but if you’re a little skittish about durian, just stick with mango with your sticky rice.
5. Thais Have Ridiculous Names for Food
Many Thai dishes have very poetic beautiful-sounding names, but every now and then we like to have a bit of fun. Take for example Kanom Kee Noo, which is a sweet powder made from flour and shredded coconut. What do we call this light delicious confection? What else? “Rat poops!” These little sweet “droppings” are a Thai favorite and, yes, we giggle every time we say it. How can you not?
Not in the mood for “rodent waste?” Maybe you’d like to shove a bald head in your mouth? Yes, Thai people love this coconut milk/soybean/rice flour dessert Kanom Hua Larn (bald head dumpling). Cannibalism isn’t just for Americans anymore, and eating heads in Floridian parking lots is so five minutes ago. Come to Bangkok for the real sweet action!
Bon Appétit and ทานให้อร่อยนะ คะ!