From the classic mango sticky rice to the more adventurous Sankaya, desserts are the cornerstone of any meal from the land of a thousand smiles.
“Thais believe desserts are the pinnacle of their cuisine,” says restaurateur and chef David Thompson, who opened Aaharn, his first Thai restaurant in Hong Kong, last month.
“You can become addicted to them. They are sumptuous, they’re rich, they are over the top and are often quite heavy, because Thai desserts are not like Western desserts in the sense of the climax or conclusion to the meal; they are snacks that can be had in the middle of the day, or eaten, as many Thais do, instead of meals. So they are richer and heavier.
“They are often sweet, but they introduce saltiness, and pepper or chillies sometimes, which can be disconcerting to some,” says Thompson.
On his menu is Sankaya, or steamed pumpkin with golden strands, a dessert featuring egg coconut custard with noodles on the top. “It’s straightforward, you see it in the markets and you see it in regal traditions as well,” says Thompson.
A long time resident of Thailand, one of his favourite Thai desserts is mango sticky rice. “It’s like those modern classic dishes, which when executed well, you can understand why it has stood the test of time, because they are simply so good,” he says.
One Thai eatery that make mango sticky rice well is Chachawan. “It’s a nostalgic sweet dish that’s mostly seen as a central Thai dessert, but is also popular in the north, which is why it features on our Isaan-focused menu at Chachawan” says Narisara Somboon, senior sous chef at Chachawan. “Thai sticky rice is cooked gently with sugar, rice flour, coconut milk and a touch of salt – it’s close to what some might call rice pudding, but with more of a gelatinous nature. It’s topped with fresh yellow mango from Thailand.”
The dish is possibly the most popular Thai dessert the world over, and it is also Narisara’s favourite. “I do have a very sweet tooth, which is probably why this is my favourite,” he says. “It’s nostalgic. I ate it a lot as a child growing up in Prachinburi.”