Today’s post is devoted to a few of my favorite sweets in Bangkok. I loved how I could eat such a wide variety of desserts and sweet snacks without feeling weighed down or to out-sugared (the way I do after a big wedge of fudgy brownie or a hunk of warm bread pudding).

At the floating market we paddled our way pass many little boats selling everything from mango sticky rice to meringue crepes, curries, fruits, and this one item I hadn’t seen before…

It’s a plump, yeasty cake griddled and folded in half. Edges are crisp and burnt on some sports but the inside half is spotted with holes like a light sponge. The cake itself has no flavor on its own aside from a touch of sweetness, but the innards are dusted with a generous mix of fresh shredded coconut, crushed peanuts, sugar, and just a dabble of salt for contrast. The cake edges curl up, enforcing a makeshift wall to hold in the dust of fillings. But still, you must be careful, cause once you bite one end, everything seems to fall out the other!

This is quite a simple desserts and I’ve encountered many variations on it in Vietnam, and even in Hawaii on some occasions. Squares of pandan jelly topped with shredded coconut, it’s a straightforward and mellow, if not refreshing dessert. It’s most often eaten at room temperature, but I prefer it refrigerated till the jelly turns all super chilly – perfect for Bangkok’s insanely hot weather.

I’m a huge fan of grass jelly based desserts and often keep at least three jars of the canned jelly in my pantry. For dessert on hot days, I just open up the can, chop the jelly into big chunks and serve over a bowl of crushed ice and a dabble of honey. At this food stand near the Chatuchak Weekend Market the cubed jelly was topped with chunks of ice, a thin pandan syrup and spoonfuls of brown sugar. It was definitely a more dressed up version of what I’m used to, and the mounds of brown sugar was slightly excessive, but I just can’t get the taste of the wispy, fragrant pandan syrup off my mind. If I could only figure out how to remake the syrup at home, you’d find me attempting to mix it into drinks, pastries, dessert soups…oh the list would go on forever!

I’ve already done a post for the durian sticky rice (which is hands down the best dessert in the wooooorld, hehe), but I did make sure to save space for other sticky rice based desserts. This one here is a tasting order of four colors of sticky rice: yellow, purple, white, and green…for aesthetic purposes only, cause they all taste the same. The yellow layer you see on the top left and bottom right are thin cuts of sweet pandan custard that seriously melted into the warm square of rice. Top right is the shredded coconut, peanut, sugar and salt mix found in the pancake (the first picture in this post). And on the bottom left is another sweet-salty mix, I could not figure out what the ingredients were (it was good, so I just ate it without a thought!), though my mom claims dried shrimp was involved in the mix.

Oh man, ok, you’re really going to like this one! While wandering through the Ancient City (hour drive outside of Bangkok, it’s a life-sized remake of a town in ancient Thailand) we passed a stand selling a wide selection of desserts, and even though it was only 9:00 in the morning, who would be silly enough to pass up on dessert?!

Here’s a closer look. My mom was absolutely obsessed with this particular dessert. You see four pieces, but I only got to eat the one you see cut open – my mom insisted on having the other three for herself! Each glorious log however in a land between soft jelly and mochi, a creation all it’s own. Bite open the sticky layer doused in sesame, sugar, salt, peanuts, and long strands of fresh coconut and you’ll find a brilliant, and somewhat refreshing mix of sweet and nutty mung beans. The colors and contrasts of textures from the soft jelly, fresh coconuts and crisp beans, and that whole sweet-salty craze…gah, this was definitely a memorable dessert!

We also got this dessert from the same stand. You wouldn’t believe how many different kinds of desserts they sold – and each one was so colorful, it was like picking among rainbows :)

8 round balls on from the same jelly/mochi base as the previous, but the outside here is simply covered in shredded fresh coconut. Every little orb houses a sticky sweet-salty mix, nutty and demands just a bit of chewing effort, but yields and melts right into your mouth at the perfect moment. You have to take my word for it, these Thais know what they’re doing: keep it simple, use fresh ingredients, don’t make it too sweet and always add a touch of salt!

Shots from Friday night’s dinner in Bangkok’s Chinatown :)

The restaurant had five floor and it was packed to capacity, after a short wait we were seated somewhere in the tangle of the third floor. A quick glance at what other diners were eating, and I was starting to salivate already!

Grilled prawns…these babies were massive!

My dad’s favorite: quick boiled baby clams.

Curried crab with vermecilli

Shark’s fin soup

Oyster omelet! This one had particularly crispy edges, soooo ono! The best is when you get contrasting bites between the near gooey, stick innards and the charred edges, a plump little oyster…mmm, yes!

Stir fried ong choi with peppers and peanuts.

These were a Thai specialty, savory fishcakes with plenty of chestnuts for crunch, wrapped in thin phyllo-esque dough and deep-fried. Just wrap in lettuce and dip in the tangy nuoc nam. Or you could just eat it plain, pop it your mouth, they make for quite the finger food :)

We’re here today at a coconut and palm sugar farm/factory. Stupid me, I had no idea that palm sugar was made from the same plant as the coconut! Nonetheless, it was a good lesson learned (even though I couldn’t understand half of what the tour guide was trying to say), and I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The coconut plant…

and the pod…those little marble rounds you see are baby coconuts, neato eh? ;)

Starting the fire to roast the coconuts…

…and here they are roasting away, hehe.

This cloth separates the coconut oil and palm sugar

Here’s the oil…

…and the palm sugar. It’s like crack candy, I tell you!

At the end of the day you’re left with a TON of coconut husks.

Grating coconut meat to make…

coconut cream!

And how we leave without a coconut of our own? The liquid is particularly refreshing on this hot day, but it’s the young, supple and sweet meat that I love the most :)

One of the foods I was most looking forward to eat in Bangkok was roasted baby pigs. Roasted pigs both full size and baby ones are frequently eaten in Hawaii, but never will you find the baby pigs this young. The baby pigs found back home are a shame compared to these. At this Chinese restaurant 40 minutes outside of the city, my aunt brought up to a restaurant well known for their pigs. Here, a small group of us quickly devoured the crispy, savory skin of the pig, so beautifully roasted the skin was practically gleaming! Lift up the thin shard of skin, and you’ll find just the barest layer of fat separating skin and meat. In comparison, at our favorite place for roasted pigs in Honolulu, there’s at least a good half inch of fat between the skin and meat.

We were offered to pair it with steamed mantous, but in this case alone, I preferred the crackly skin on it’s own.

Stir fried ostrich that tasted remarkably like extremely buttery soft beef!

Crab and vermicelli noodles in a spicy curry broth.

Cold sliced chicken. Not cold ginger chicken, if that’s what you’re thinking, but simply boiled, chilled and sliced young chicken, more bony than meaty, but what meat is attached to the bone is about one bazillion times more succulent than what my grandma affectionally/sarcastically calls, “American Chicken.”

A quartet of appetizers, I can’t remember what they all were, but to the right are fried scallops, and just below that was my favorite of the bunch, bean sprouts stir fried with eggs and salted fish. I was really craving a big bowl of rice to pair with that, but there was just so much other food to eat, I had no time!

I wanted to jump up and cheer when I saw this dish! Well at first I had no idea what it was. But then my aunt said it was noodles, and I said, what? NOODLES?! And yes, it is true! Noodles! What you’re looking at are wide squares of noodles, so thin they were near transparent, layered one on top of another, at least a dozen layers. Then the whole mass is fried on both sides, replated, and cut into manageable squared. How do you eat this?

First you put about five or so squares into a small rice bowl, and then you take a big scoop of this gravy rich with shrimp, scallops, beef, choy sum, carrots, and bean sprouts, and ladle it alllll over. A quick mix, and viola! The noodles themselves are simply amazing, the outer layers get all crisp and charred in some spots which the inner layers nearly melt together forming some crazy molten concoction. The gravy is just to tie it all in, but if you’re a real noodle hound, you’re better off spooning the gravy in a separate bowl and dipping the noodles :)

The following evening we had dinner with a long lost aunt who currently resides in Bangkok. It was a reunion of sort, given that we hadn’t seen her in over 18 years. I also got to meet with my grandpa’s sister, who I’ve only seen in old family photos. And it turns out that I seem to have relatives all over the world. They all started in Vietnam as one big clan, then when the war broke out, everyone scattered about, some ended up in Hawaii, others in Australia, Paris, Germany, London and a bunch more in Bangkok, Cambodia, and parts of China. None stayed or went back to Vietnam.

That night we ate at a restaurant about thirty minutes outside the city, near my grandaunt’s home. I’m afraid I didn’t pay too much attention to the meal, as I was more eager to talk with my aunt and grandaunt. But we did eat quite a few very interesting dishes…

Baked snake and eggs, anyone? Little nuggets of chopped snake meat blended with egg yolks, mushrooms and spices to tie in all. I can’t figure out what the white foam on top was made of, but I suspect egg whites. It was a satisfying dish, like a rather bouncy meatball nestled in boiling sweet juices, not too chewy nor very meaty. It’s hard to explain, you should try it for yourself.

Pad thai wrapped inside an egg omelet
Off to the right is a little packet of chili and sugar. They give you sugar with everything here! I sprinked the sugar over the pad thai, just to give it a try, but I think I prefer my pad thai less sweet than others.

Som tum

Tom kha gai – a tangy sweet/sour soup made from a coconut base with plenty of kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass. Those little things you see bobbing around are fishballs, shrimp and mushrooms.

Deep fried frogs topped off with an amazing nest of fried garlic and peppers. We just picked up a frog piece (some legs, others body parts) and ate it like fried chicken, making sure to pick up as much of that flaky garlic nest along with the frog. I’m not a huge fan of frog, but it was the surely the combo of the garlic frogs that had me picking at this dish till the end.

Curried crab

Quick boiled clams – this dish became somewhat of an obsession for my father (along with baby oyster pancakes) during our stay in Bangkok. He just had to have this dish everywhere we went, sometimes cleaning out two plates on his own!