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Thread: Thai Desserts

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    Thai Desserts

    Sweet surrender
    Bangkok Post, 12th May 2006

    Although there's been a renewed interest in Thai desserts, this time-honoured heritage is in danger of disappearing due to the secretive attitude of older 'khanom Thai' makers

    Story by Vanniya Sriangura, photos by Anusorn Sakseree


    Until about five years ago, khanom Thai or traditional Thai desserts were usually hidden in the middle of a wet and sombre local fresh market where a grandma-like saleslady gently scooped up a delicate piece of her work from a worn-out aluminium tray into a fresh banana leaf wrapper when the order came. Today, regardless of those street vendors on motorcycle-driven carts selling cheap-quality, barely edible Thai khanom waan, a colourful variety of traditional Thai sweets boasting exquisite appearance and fancy packaging can be found in the gourmet sections of posh department stores.

    Thanks to the government's campaign, with assistance from the media, to promote awareness of our national sweet heritage among the new generation and to push it to the world stage a few years ago, there has been a growth in the khanom Thai industry. Yet the results haven't been so significant. Go to any shopping centre and try and peek past the long queues of people crazily waiting for those coffee-coated buns; what do you see more of - shops selling Thai desserts or Western bakery joints?

    Who queues for Thai treats?

    According to Tipavan Fuangruang, a culinary instructor at Bangkok Polytechnic College, there are several factors that have restricted the popularity of khanom Thai. The first on the list, to some amazement, concerns the taste and the not-so-healthy ingredients.

    "Thai desserts appeal mostly to the older generation," she said. "But because the main ingredients are flour, sugar and coconut milk, there's always a limitation on consumption of khanom Thai, especially for old people who have to watch their sugar intake and cholesterol level carefully."

    With regard to why Thai desserts have to be very sweet, the cooking expert explained, "Most khanom Thai are perishable, yet making them is very complicated and time-consuming. So in order to prevent them from spoiling so quickly, our ancestors had to make them sweet, and the sweeter they are means the longer they'll keep."

    Tipavan said that making khanom Thai doesn't only take time but also requires a lot of labour and fuel. "For example, to make khanom chan (the nine-layered, warm jelly-type dessert) it takes several minutes to carefully create and steam just one layer. The same process is repeated again and again. Or for look choob, there's no commercial mold. It still requires gently molding by hand. So, compared to making a cake which can come out perfectly from one baking, Thai desserts are far more difficult to make."

    Tipavan noted that the intricate process of making traditional treats has lead to the lack of interest and inspiration among the new generation to study and keep up the time-honoured recipes. "The grandchildren of the khanom Thai-making families who have seen their grandmas working so hard might not want to pursue the family tradition. They prefer to do something quick with a more substantial result. At my school khanom Thai courses are often quiet but whenever I open a bakery class, it is full very quickly," she said, adding that most Thai kids nowadays have never heard of jah mongkhut and may have never seen re rai.

    The last, but not least important factor behind the fading popularity of traditional Thai desserts is the loss of authentic ancient recipes. "I onced ask an old auntie who sold Thai sweets in a fresh market how she made them and she said, 'Oh it's not difficult at all, dear' and she wouldn't say anything more. She wouldn't tell me the recipe, she just didn't bother finishing her answer," Tipavan recalled.

    Tipavan said that the typical possessive attitude of the old generation has impeded the flow of cultural heritage. "Most old people don't want to pass their recipes to others. They believe that other people will become their competitors. Therefore, the know-how dies with them. It's quite a narrow-minded perception they have, but it's very common."

    At present, even though the number of shops and classes on Thai desserts have increased, the growth isn't going at full pace. Tipavan is still concerned that most modern-day khanom Thai shops focus on commercial value and elaborate packaging rather than authenticity. While at cooking schools, most instructors who teach khanom Thai are young and less knowledgeable.

    The saviour of 'khanom Thai'


    Among the eight contestants hoping to be crowned connoisseur of traditional Thai desserts in last year's local television game show, Fan Pun Tae, were an avid housewife with a deep passion for Thai sweets, a sweet-toothed college student, a khanom Thai proprietor and two cooking instructors who specialised in traditional Thai delicacies.

    And the person who beat the others and was later announced khanom Thai guru of the year was a Chinese-Thai woman named Kornkamon Leelateeraphat, who now runs the country's largest manufacturer with 70 employees and a daily turnover of 30,000 pieces of Thai sweets. For almost two decades, her Kanom Thai Kao Pee Nong business has been known among Bangkokians. Today the company produces more than 70 variations of Thai desserts and snacks, with over 100 items on the menu. From ordinary khanom piak poon and thong yip to rarely found massagod, luem gluen (forget to swallow), sanae jan, jah mongkhut and re rai - you name it, they have it.

    "Even though I have Chinese roots I've never thought that I have taken over the traditional recipe from real Thai people, instead I feel proud to be able to retain the ancient custom," the humble Kornkamon said.

    Kornkamon is the seventh offspring of a Chinese family with nine children - that's the reason why she named her business "Kao Pee Nong". Together with siblings six, eight and nine, she opened a small stall selling a few selections of Thai sweets 19 years ago.


    "As a child, I never had a chance to go out and play or watch television. Being poor had urged us to be very diligent and ambitious," she recalled. Perhaps it's the typical Chinese virtues of persistence, stamina and diligence that have made her family overcome obstacles, pursue their goals and gain a place at the forefront of the industry today.

    For Kornkamon, learning how to make khanom Thai and getting "the right" recipes were not as easy as attending cooking classes, listening to the experts and jotting down what they said. "To be able to make good khanom Thai, it usually takes close observation and creativity to understand and adapt the recipes, but more often it's self-study that comes into play," she said, pointing out that most cooking schools wouldn't reveal all the tips and knowledge, in fact some even concealed the information. "For instance, when the instructor said it's rice flour, instead she used glutinous flour. So whenever the students go home, they can't make it the same as they have done in the class even though they strictly follow the recipe."

    She offered another common sleight of hand. "When measuring the ingredients the instructor always blocked the view of the weighing machine so we wouldn't know the right amount. Such dilemmas aren't normally found at a bakery class."

    Kornkamol said that when cooking, old people don't really measure the ingredients but depend on using the same utensils and containers, so when they share the recipe with others they can't really pinpoint the exact weight and quantity, instead they say, "Just put a pinch of it" or "Fill it to the handle level of that pot". This results in fluctuating recipes and different outcomes. The eager Kornkamon used to have her brother lure the teacher out so she could weigh all the ingredients herself.

    Right now, other than selling at Aw Taw Kaw and Bon Marche, the company distributes to many five-star hotels throughout the country as well as to several airlines. But the overall retail demand isn't high because of the booming health concern.

    "In the past people were less worried about their heath compared to nowadays. Now there's a trend of eating right and people are a lot more careful about what they consume," she noted.

    To cater to sweet-toothed yet health-conscious customers, Kornkamon has come up with more healthy recipes and recently launched low cholesterol Thai sweets using cholesterol-free cream and fructose syrup instead of coconut milk and sugar. The new approach has gone into many new creations including khanom kheng, woon kati and thong yord, to name a few.

    "They might not taste exactly the same as the original recipe. But at least they offer an alternative for the health-conscious generation, and perhaps taste better."

    Khanom Thai Kao Pee Nong is located at Aw Taw Kaw market opposite Chatuchak. For more information, please call 02-278-1426.

    SYMBOLIC MEANINGS

    Thai sweets are made from refined recipes that have been passed down for centuries and take time and careful attention to prepare. So not only do they symbolise sweetness, they also represent passion, preciousness and subtlety. Many "khanom Thai" include the word "thong", which literally means gold in Thai, indeed some are even decorated with gold leaf to signify prosperity and high esteem. Therefore they are often reserved for special occasions, such as a wedding ceremony, and as a gift. Here are some examples of meaningful Thai desserts.

    Khanom chan represents advancement and promotion
    Jah mongkhut represents triumph and superiority
    Sanae jan represents the moonlight's allure
    Khanom tuoy foo represents prosperity
    Khanom tarn represents sweetness and smoothness
    Look choob represents adorability
    Khao niew kaew represents pure integrity
    Woon noppakao represents wealth
    Med kanoon represents support
    Dok lamduan and Benjamas represent long-lasting friendship and thoughtfulness
    Foi thong means golden threads
    Thong chompunut means pure gold
    Thong ek means chief of gold
    Thong ut means golden penny
    Thong muan means golden roll
    Thong noppakhun means pure gold
    Thong plu means golden flare
    Thong tat means golden offering
    Thong yip means golden pinch
    Thong yord means golden drop

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    Re: Thai Desserts

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I need your help! I had this delicious Thai sweet during my stay in Thailand and am now unable to find out its name! I would love to make this myself... if you have a recipe or even just know the name, please let me know!
    I greatly appreciate your interest and look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails thai sesame sweet.jpg  

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    Re: Thai Desserts

    Sorry I couldn't find that dessert anywhere on the internet but while I was looking I did find this mouth watering site about Thai desserts.
    http://slice-of-thai.com/desserts/
    I might print it out and make it my mission to try just about everything on that page in December.
    Anybody want to join the mission?

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    Re: Thai Desserts

    Hello Lmwaldo,

    I am not sure if this will be of help, but, it looks very like something i had in Mae Hong Son some years ago. It was very like sticky rice, but very sweet and tasted like it had condensed milk in it. Sorry, i do not have a name for it, but i do remember school children where handing the little parcels out to everyone. This would have been around about February time i think....or possibly September. I am not sure what the festivities where for, but the little sweet sugary rice parcels where so deliciouse!

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    Re: Thai Desserts

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerome View Post
    Sorry I couldn't find that dessert anywhere on the internet but while I was looking I did find this mouth watering site about Thai desserts.
    http://slice-of-thai.com/desserts/
    I might print it out and make it my mission to try just about everything on that page in December.
    Anybody want to join the mission?
    Sign me up for the mission Jerome, A very interesting desert site, not too keen on the pumpkin and custard desert, but would like to try the concrete one......the only one I have tried on the list is the steamed sticky rice pouches with fillings, yummo!!!! I will print the list out and will be in Thaialand at the end of this month, so I will see how many I can find....cheers.

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    Re: Thai Desserts

    It's a Chinese Rice cake. Usually served on Chines Lunar Festival, but available all year. You can buy it at every Tesco Lotus or Macro, etc.


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    Re: Thai Desserts

    I just asked my wife and she told me that it is called
    ˹֧
    nĕung téung

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    Re: Thai Desserts

    I just found some Info:

    A specialty of Hubei Province, Xiaogan cake is made of sticky rice flour, sesame, sugar, and sweet-scented osmanthus. It is crisp, sweet and nutritious.



    Source: http://china.chinaa2z.com/china/html...806823505.html

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    Re: Thai Desserts

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerome View Post
    Sorry I couldn't find that dessert anywhere on the internet but while I was looking I did find this mouth watering site about Thai desserts.
    I might print it out and make it my mission to try just about everything on that page in December.
    Anybody want to join the mission?
    I´m in!

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    Re: Thai Desserts

    I will be in that GEROME.. this will be a very interesting exercise.
    I will print it out and ask my Thai wife and step son to cook them up for us. I am sure they will know the ingredient's.

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