I’m not going to be blowing any minds when I say that a specialty of Thai food is balancing many flavors in one dish. In fact, there’s a well-known amuse bouche of sorts called a one bite salad which combines sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and bitter in one delicious leaf-encased bite.
My forays into Thai street food, though, are necessarily limited by my veganism. There are very few savory dishes, if any at all, which don’t have any animal-derived ingredients. Luckily for me and my giant sweet tooth, a majority of dishes in the Thai sweet pantheon are vegan by default. With Khanom Krok in particular, and its perfect balance of texture and flavors, I feel I’ve won some kind of delicious-food lottery. Where are my balloons and confetti?
Khanom Krok is made in two layers with two slightly different batters. And as you can hear me annoyingly yammer on about, the first is rice-based and is used to give each little pancake a firm outer crust. The second layer is mainly coconut cream and sugar, and it never fully firms up, resulting in a marvelous contrast of textures. The outer crust is firm and even a bit crispy, while the creamy inside is hot and custard-like. Ha. There’s a reason it’s called food porn.
I enjoy the contrast of textures, but what makes Khanom Krok one of my favorite Thai sweets is the balance of sweet and salty flavors (I guess the girl can leave the U.S. but can never annihilate those American taste buds). An essential part of the coconut cream is a distinct salted edge which really enhances the richness and sweetness of the pudding-like center. Add to each little pancake a few kernels of corn, a sprinkling of chives and you have the perfect mix of savory, creamy, and sweet.
Stay tuned for more Thai street food. Though I think I should give up the pretense and call it what it is: Thai sweets. I’ve got a video of vegan caramel being made and am in the process of hunting down my favorite sweet of all: sticky rice with durian. Yum.