The first few times I walked down this row of shops on the lakefront in Chanthaburi, I was distracted by the smell, pervasive by nature, of durian around me. Like a woman obsessed, I only had eyes for the large, muddy brown, hedgehog-like fruit. It wasn’t until my third time walking down the street that I noticed a purely sweet smell which cut through the complex durian aroma. I looked to my right and saw a long banquet-like table displaying an array of sticky Thai sweets. Behind the table, a young man stood on a chair and stirred a wok filled with a gooey caramelized mass known as kalamae.
Kalamae is a naturally vegan Thai version of the traditional French caramel. It is made (as with most Thai sweets) of a combination of sticky rice , sugar, and coconut. It is amazing how these three basic ingredients can combine to create a multitude of desserts all of varying tastes and textures. In the case of kalamae, sticky rice flour, palm sugar, and coconut milk are cooked and stirred constantly until the perfect gooey and luscious texture is obtained.
You can find plain kalamae (colored with burnt coconut husks) or a green kalamae (colored with pandan leaves), topped with either peanuts or white sesame seeds. Especially for vegans who miss eating caramel, kalamae is a wonderful, indulgent sweet. I find it tastier than its cream- and butter-laden counterpart.
20 baht or $0.70 for a palm-size packet.