Around-the-World Sweets: Thai Desserts

Ranging from palm-flavored mini cakes with shredded coconut (khanom tan) to jasmine scented coconut pudding (tako), the majority of Thai meals end with fresh fruit or a sweet snack as dessert. Chao kuai is a grass jelly typically served with shaved ice and brown sugar, while sangkhaya fak thong combines egg and coconut served with pumpkin. In the United States, Thai desserts containing mango, coconut milk, and sticky rice are most popular, like the ones listed below:

The Importance of Mango

thaifreshfruitIn Thai cuisine, mango plays an important role – added to entrees, side dishes and especially desserts. If you’d like to explore Thai sweets that include the delectably sweet fruit, consider mango sorbet and pudding. Mango Sorbet usually requires the use of a blender or food processor to produce the light and airy frozen treat of sweetened water flavored with iced fruit juice or puree. For a quick Thai treat, Mango Pudding only takes about 15 minutes to create. Some recipes use coconut milk instead of whipping cream or evaporated milk, which livens up the flavor of the mango.

photo courtesy of Sue Pizarro

Thai Mango Sticky Sweet Rice

Sticky rice (also known as glutinous rice) possesses a glue-like consistency and is used in a variety of Thai desserts and dishes. You can locate sticky rice at an Asian grocery store or a supermarket aisle offering international food products. A colander is generally used to steam the sticky rice or it is made on a stovetop in a pot. This classic tropical blend starts with saturating the sticky rice in coconut milk and ends with slices of fresh or frozen mango as a topping.

Pandan Rice Cake

Another Thai dessert that uses sticky rice is the two-layered Pandan Rice Cake – a relatively healthy treat that’s low in sugar, rich in protein, and low in saturated fat. The first layer consists of sticky rice, coconut milk, and a green-colored paste known as “pandan” – made from the juice of Pandanus amaryllifolius leaves. The first layer is also sweetened with white or brown sugar (and sometimes maple syrup). The second layer is comprised of eggs, coconut milk, sugar, pandan paste, and rice flour. Often served warm or at room temperature, the cake is usually decorated with fresh fruit or drizzled with toasted coconut.

Thai-Style Crème Caramel

The Thai version of the traditional crème caramel dessert uses coconut milk in place of cream, which supplies the body with good fats that help lower your cholesterol. Most recipes create a whipped treat you pop in the oven in less than ten minutes.

Green Tea and Coconut Cakecoconutmilk

A favorite at potluck gatherings, dinner parties and afternoon tea, Green Tea and Coconut Cake blends healthy green tea with shredded coconut, brown sugar, and coconut milk. Because of the ingredients, this Thai dessert offers a low-fat, low-carb, low-sodium treat. Typical recipes use about three teaspoons of green tea powder, such as Japanese ‘macha’ – found at health food stores or Asian import markets.

Try Something New: Fig Desserts

With a sweet scent and unquestionable versatility, figs produce an array of tasty treats, including fig pudding and fig-date cookies. Found in warm climates, the fruit grow like wildfire in California, Georgia, Texas and Alabama – basically in locations with hot summers and mild winters. Pick the delectable fruit from a tree and eat out of hand or consider one of the fig dessert suggestions found at the end of this post.

photo courtesy of Linda Pannekoek

Ranging in color and texture, there are more than 150 varieties of figs – all bursting with their own supply of sweetness. Popular choices include:

  • Adriatic: Light green skin and pink-tan flesh commonly used in fig bars
  • Black Mission: Blackish-purple skin and pink colored flesh
  • Kadota: Green skin and purplish flesh
  • Calimyrna: Greenish-yellow skin and amber flesh
  • Brown Turkey: Purple skin and red flesh – large southern fig also grown in California.

bowlofripefigsThe Versatility and Benefits of Figs

Yes, figs make delicious desserts, and also provide eaters with a range of health benefits and flexible baking possibilities. For starters, you can embrace figs to achieve your weight management goals, as they contain a good source of dietary fiber. Other benefits of figs include:

  • Delivering a healthy boost of potassium, figs can help lower high blood pressure.
  • Besides the occasional rough patches or thick skin, figs do not require any peeling. Leaving the skins on figs when making desserts actually produces a stronger flavor.
  • A variety of herbs and spices make satisfying accompaniments to sweet and savory fig recipes, including bay, thyme, aniseed and lavender.
  • With 79 milligrams of calcium in an 8-ounce serving of figs, the fruit contains minerals that promote bone density.

7 Ideas for Fig Desserts

Fig Galette: With a buttery crust, fill your galette (flat, round or freeform crusty cakes) with figs for a pastry oozing intense flavor best topped with whipped cream.

Fig Tarts: Use fig preserves to create Cinnamon-Sugar Fig Tarts with ingredients, such as toasted, chopped walnuts (or pecans), ground allspice, and brown sugar. You can also add cloves to enhance the flavor of your favorite fig tart recipe. Consider blending a mascarpone cheese filling with Black Mission figs or serving a fig tart with paper-thin prosciutto di Parma, like the infamous chef Mario Batali.

Fig Cake: Use freshly chopped figs to create a moist cake for the holidays with hints of almond and vanilla extract. Add lemon or a dash of balsamic vinegar to fig desserts to enhance the sweetness of slightly underripe figs or awaken the flavor in ripe selections.

figbarsFig Bars: If you love the taste of Fig Newtons with a cup of tea or coffee, then you’ll appreciate a good fig bar recipe. Try adding cardamom and rose water to enjoy a different take on the typical fig bar filling.

Fig Stuffed Apples: Stuff apples with fresh figs, honey, apple juice and lemon juice to create a tantalizing dessert that bakes in the oven for one hour.

Ice Cream Treat: Serve figs poached in juice or red wine with frozen yogurt or ice cream for a cold dessert. For the ice cream maker at heart, explore a recipe that focuses on figs.

Nutty Fig Delight: For a hearty dessert, stuff fresh figs with goat cheese and chopped almonds.