Thai food has been praised around the world for its delightful flavors and its lavish use of herbs and fresh ingredients. While the more savory dishes have seen pop culture recognition, Thai desserts have sadly been neglected. Most of these sweet treats are a nightmare to make and are often priced less than what they merit, which is probably the reason why we barely see them in our usual dining haunts. Some Bangkok venues, however, have staunchly upheld Thai dessert traditions and have given these treats a fancy rebirth. Here are some legendary Thai sweets to try.
Rare Thai desserts you must try in Bangkok
Khanom pra prai
This southern Thai treat, made with colorful flour dumplings, is traditionally served in wedding ceremonies. A mix of sticky rice flour and jasmine-scented water gives the dumplings a chewy texture and fragrant aroma. Glutinous outer covering provides a great contrast to a filling of sweet mung bean paste. These treats are served with thick coconut milk and are best enjoyed with a warm cup of jasmine tea.
Where to eat: Baannai The Reminiscence
The elegant Rama VI-style colonial house, which also functions as a boutique hotel, serves rare royal Thai dishes made with ingredients some of which are grown onsite. Baannai is also known for its khanom khao kra ya koo, a sweet, chilled soup made from the water of boiled rice and pandan leaves.
102/13 Kampangpetch 5 Road, Samsen, 0 2619 7430. Open daily 11:00-22:00
Khao krieb pak mor daeng
This gooey spring roll-like treat from Trat is hard to find even in its province of origin. The wrapping is made from a mixture of rice flour and brown sugar, steamed and then stuffed with mung bean and grated coconut. What you get is a snack that provides the perfect interplay of sweet and savory.
Where to eat: Rathkaew
This modern, whitewashed restaurant, nestled in out-of-town Dewa Boutique Hotel, serves cuisine from eastern Thailand including this glutinous dessert.
131/3 Soi Chaegwattana 13, Lak Si, 0 2982 8151. Open daily 9:00-20:00
Usually served in the summer, this treat sees pieces of seasonal fruits doused in syrup infused with pandan leaves and som sa (a rare Thai citrus fruits), and served in crushed ice made with jasmine water. Toppings like ginger and fried shallots, plus thin slices of green mango, give a savory twist to the refreshing fruity treat. The result? A sensational combination of sweet, salty and tangy in one bite.
Where to eat: Nahm
You will have to tolerate a usually week-long wait to savor som chun as interpreted by renowned Thai restaurant Nahm, recently named the fifth best restaurant in Asia. During summer, Nahm’s version uses ma yong chid or plango, an orange-colored fruit that has a sweet taste similar to mango.
COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, South Sathorn Road, Sathorn, 0 2625 3333. Open Mon-Fri 12:00-14:00, 19:00-23:00, Sat-Sun 19:00-23:00
This confection was traditionally believed to bring good fortune because of its auspicious name. The sweet is made from two types of rice flour, egg yolk and a hint of ground nutmeg, and molded in the shape of Thai golden apples (in-jaan).
Where to eat: Saneh Jaan
The eponymous restaurant is perhaps the best place in town for these bite-sized golden treats. Saneh Jaan is located in the Glasshouse@Sindhorn complex on Wireless Road and features interiors inspired by the pavilions that were popular during the reign of King Rama V.
Glasshouse@Sindhorn, Wireless Road, Ploenchit, 0 2650 9880. Open 18:00-22:00
Khao tok tang
These old-school nibbles combine grounded khao tok or pop rice (the product you get from roasting paddy), palm sugar and shredded coconut. The batter is then molded into small balls and sprinkled with another batch of pop rice. As a finishing touch, the treats are infused with smoke from scented candles.
Where to eat: Farm to Table Hideout
This Farm to Table spin-off, tucked away in the Pak Klong Talad area, serves casual eats and sweet treats. The café’s version of khao tok tang is paired with house-made butterfly pea and coconut ice cream.
15 Soi Tha Klang, Pak Klong Talad, 0 2044 8771. Open Thu-Tue 10:00-21:00
The glutinous dessert yok manee (which means “jade” in Thai) sees small pieces of sago combined with blended pandan leaves and stirred in a hot pan. What you get is a firm emerald green mixture flecked with pearly-white dots. This mixture is then molded and rolled in shredded coconut.
Where to eat: Sri Thai Delicatessen
This dessert shop has outlets in K Village, Central Chidlom and The Commons, and is known for purveying authentic, old-school Thai treats made from age-old family recipes.
K Village, Sukhumvit 26, Sukhumvit, 08 9923 5477. Open daily 10:00-21:00.
Red khanom tom
Red khanom tom is traditionally served along with the more popular white version in auspicious ceremonies. The dough, made with sticky rice flour, is mixed with jasmine-scented water, molded into flat shapes and simmered with shredded coconut and coconut sugar.
Where to eat: Khao Pee Nong
This sweet shop has been selling more than 100 selections of rare and classic sugar-loaded treats in Or Tor Kor market for more than 30 years.
Or Tor Kor Market, Chatuchak, 0 2270 0293. Open daily 6:00-18:00
Usually seen in vibrant colors, these noodles are meant to be enjoyed with coconut milk, ground nuts and sesame seeds. Named after the nest of a cricket which villagers call “re-rai”, the pasta-like confection is made from two different kinds of flour, coconut milk and natural color. The dough is pressed in a special molding machine to create thin noodle-like strands.
Where to eat: Wat Thong Market
This community market in Ban Bu village in Thon Buri is organized every other weekend to showcase the villagers’ culinary skills and to support the livelihood of community members.
Ban Bu Village, Phetsuwan Road, Siriraj, 08 4681 8382. Open every 1st and 3rd weekend of the month 9:00-16:00.
Bua loy haeng
Bua loy is a colorful and chewy treat served in coconut milk. The version from Trat is uncommon, and ditches the creamy coconut sauce for sesame. Bua loy haeng (dried bua loy) is made from steamed tapioca and tapioca flour, boiled in hot water and rolled in a mix of sesame, sugar and salt.
Where to eat: Sri Trat
Sri Trat, a restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 33, specializes in cuisine from the eastern seaboard. It’s one of very few places in Bangkok where you can find this delightful treat.
90 Sukhumvit 33, Sukhumvit, 0 2088 0968. Open Wed-Mon 12:00-23:00
Inthanin may look like your typical Thai dessert, but this emerald green-colored gummy bear lookalike takes so much effort to make that it’s almost impossible to find it in a regular sweets parlor. First, the coconut milk has to be infused with a fragrant scent for intense aroma. Second, the batter, which is made from tapioca flour and pandan-infused water, has to be stirred for a good amount of time over flame before it is carefully molded. The treat tastes best when served with crushed ice.
Where to eat: Siam Spring Bistro
Sitting on the ground floor of Natural Place Suite in Soi Ngam Duplee, Siam Spring Bistro is an ideal hideaway for enjoying authentic Thai grub in a whitewashed contemporary setting.
The Natural Place Suite, Soi Nham Duplee, Sathorn, 08 7777 3555. Open Tue-Sun 11:00-21:00
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