Nine Auspicious Thai Desserts and Their Meanings
by RACHEL on FEBRUARY 10, 2015
Nine Auspicious Thai Desserts
I’ve been told that I might have gone a little overboard in planning our wedding…
“A nice church ceremony with cake and punch afterwards would have sufficed.”
And it’s true, at the end of the day, all that really matters is that the hubby and I are now married. But it’s easy to get carried away when there are so many neat Thai traditions to try to incorporate into your special day!
One of the things that I really wanted to bring to our wedding was a selection of auspicious Thai desserts. These desserts are said to convey special blessings or well wishes upon those who eat them, so are commonly served at Thai weddings, and other major life celebrations.
Nine Auspicious Thai Desserts
So I set out on an extensive search of Thai dessert shops, initially in my local area, and then expanding to all of the United States and even Thailand, trying to find someone who could make these intricate desserts for our big day.
At the last minute, we were able to find many of the nine auspicious desserts at Bhan Kanom Thai in L.A., and even convinced a good friend to carry them on a plane to us for our wedding day! It worked out great 🙂
Nine Auspicious Thai DessertsIn all of my searching, though, I had come across Kanom Baan Kwan, a shop with over 25 years of experience specializing in traditional Thai desserts, with locations in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Their desserts looked so appealing online that the hubby and I decided we had to stop by the next time we were in Thailand.
Nine Auspicious Thai Desserts
So this past November, we dropped by the original Kanom Baan Kwan location in Chiang Mai, right outside of the Chang Phuek gate at the northern edge of the city. We got to watch as these beautifully structured plates of auspicious desserts took shape, and came home with an assortment of Thai desserts to try for ourselves.
Here are the nine auspicious Thai desserts that we sampled, along with the blessings that they convey:
Foy TongName: Foy Tong | Golden Threads | ฝอยทอง
Meaning: long-lasting or eternal love
These long, sweet, golden threads are made by pouring egg yolks through a sieve into boiling syrup. The syrup is heavily perfumed with jasmine so that the dessert takes on this alluring scent.
Name: Tong Yod | Golden Drops | ทองหยอด
Meaning: continuous wealth
These tear-drop shaped desserts are made by dropping egg yolk mixed with flour into boiling jasmine-scented syrup. The resulting taste is very similar to Foy Tong, but the texture is different.
Tong YipName: Tong Yip | Golden Pick | ทองหยิบ
Another dessert with a similar taste to Foy Tong, this flower-shaped treat is made by soaking a cooked egg yolk disc in jasmine-scented syrup and then molding it into the shape of a flower petal.
Name: Khanom Chan | Layered Dessert | ขนมชั้น
Meaning: continuous success
This soft, jelly-like dessert is made from a combination of rice and tapioca flours, coconut milk, and sugar. It is often infused with pandan or other flavors that alternate in colored layers, but can also be presented as a delicate rose such as this one.
Tong AkeName: Tong Ake | Golden One | ทองเอก
These flower cookies are made by slowly cooking egg yolk, coconut milk, sugar, and flour until a paste is formed. The paste is then molded into an intricate flower and topped with gold foil before being perfumed with the aromatic Thai dessert candle.
Name: Sanay Jan | Charm | เสน่ห์จันทน์
Meaning: charming, loved by others
Sanay Jan is also made by slowly cooking egg yolk, coconut milk, flour, and sugar like Tong Ake, but this dessert features a hint of nutmeg as well. The overall taste is very similar to that of Tong Ake.
Name: Look Choop | Coated Pieces | ลูกชุบ
Meaning: loved by all, adored
Made of mung beans cooked with coconut milk and sugar, these molded fruit and vegetable pieces are as cute as they are delicious. Once formed, the desserts are dipped in gelatin and painted with food coloring until they resemble miniature fruits or vegetables.
Name: Med Kanoon | Jackfruit Seeds | เม็ดขนุน
Meaning: supported through life
The name of this dessert is a reference to its shape rather than its ingredients. It is made of the same sweetened mung bean paste that Look Choop is made from, then shaped into an oval, dipped in egg yolk, and allowed to cook in a perfumed syrup.
Name: Jah Mongkut | Crown | จ่ามงกุฎ
Meaning: superiority, triumph
The inner portion of this dessert is composed of a batter like that of Tong Ake, while the outer white details are made of pumpkin seeds coated in syrup and cooked slowly until they are crispy. The resulting crown-shaped dessert is smoked with the Thai incense candle.
All of the desserts we sampled were delicious, and so amazingly detailed and intricate. And even though we didn’t have all nine auspicious Thai desserts represented at our wedding, we were blessed to have a good sampling of them, and then to be able to enjoy all nine together when we made it to Thailand!
Have you tried any of these traditional Thai desserts? If so, which are your favorites? Hubby loves Foy Tong the most, and I can never get enough Med Kanoon…
Thai people love their sweets, and if you rely on the options that your local take-out place offers, you’re missing out. Usually, ending a meal with a plate of seasonal fruit like papaya, watermelon and pomelo is standard in the average Thai diet, but it’s just as easy for one to indulge in the array of intricate and coconut-rich desserts that Thailand has to offer.
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One of the reasons why most Thai restaurants don’t offer these desserts is because they take forever to make. A handful of Thai desserts originated in the palace, where servants spent their days preparing precious sweets for the royal family. Soon enough, however, the desserts found their way to the streets for the rest of the country to enjoy. Here are a few to know.
Khanom krok are charcoal-fired crispy coconut cups eaten hot with a variety of toppings
- Khanom Krok
These creamy and fragrant bite-sized desserts are cooked in a charcoal-heated pan with small craters, which result in little, rich coconut cups. They are a favorite among Thai people and are widely eaten in the mornings at street vendors around Bangkok. Common toppings are green onions, sweet corn and taro and these treats are best eaten piping hot off the pan.
Thai ice cream, bathed in liquid nitrogen for dramatic effect, comes in a variety of delicious flavors.
Thai ice cream, or itim, is lighter, less creamy and sweeter than its American counterpart. You’ll find flavors like coconut cream, Thai tea and jackfruit. Thai ice cream is often served in creative ways, sometimes in empty coconut shells or in between toasted sweet rolls. We even found a place in Bangkok’s Chinatown that serves ice cream in hot pots that would normally be used to serve tom yum soup with liquid nitrogen in the middle for a dramatic effect.
Originally for Thai royals, these sweet mung bean cakes are shaped into fruits and glazed for a shiny finish.
- Luk Chub
These pretty little desserts are shaped into mini Thai fruits and vegetables like mangos, chilis and mangosteens. The process of making them is uncommonly labor-intensive and it requires grinding steamed mung beans into a sweet paste, shaping them, dipping them in food coloring, and glazing them in gelatin. No wonder this dessert was only available for the royals back in the day.
Woon bai toey are infused with grassy, herbal pandan leaf and layered with coconut.
- Woon Bai Toey
Thai people eat gelatin in many forms. This one is made out of the fragrant pandan leaf and layered with coconut cream jelly. Thai jellies are usually a little more “al dente” than your average Jell-O treat, which is why they hold their shapes so well.
Nope, those aren’t cherries. Tup tim krob is made with ultra-absorbent water chestnuts dipped in dye.
- Tup Tim Krob
This dessert is made of water chestnuts dipped in red food coloring, then tossed in cassava flour which gives it a soft, chewy exterior. The water chestnuts are then served in ice and coconut milk, which is lightly seasoned with salt. It’s perfect for a hot day. Tup tim krob is a good example of how Thai desserts typically balance sweet and salty flavors.
Enjoy these creamy pots infused with Thai incense. You’ve never had incense-smoked dessert before, right?
- Luem Gluen
The direct translation of this dessert is, “I forgot I swallowed.” These little cups have a custard-like consistency and are topped with fluffy, salty coconut cream. They’re infused with pandan leaves and then smoked with a special Thai incense used only for desserts. Yes, you read that correctly: smoking the dessert adds a floral jasmine scent and a complex layer of flavors to the dessert. Pop it in your mouth and it immediately melts, hence the name.
The name of this dessert means “floating lotus.”
- Bua Loy
This is a popular after dinner treat. It calls for mashed, steamed taro mixed with sticky rice flour and shaped into small balls, which are then boiled in water until they float to the top and served in warm coconut milk. The name of this Thai dessert means “floating lotus” and it comes in different colors created from infusions of pandan leaves and mashed pumpkin. The texture of bua loy is smooth and soft, which makes it very comforting to eat. Sometimes, a poached egg is served with it, because…why not?
Cat Lau is a Bangkok-born and raised food writer and author of blog Fat Cat Eats as well as producer for Boston University’s The Hungry Terrier.