Thailand isn’t best known for its delicious desserts and this is partly due to it not having many. With so many other great food options in Thailand it is hard to complain. As a person who’s not fussed for desserts I would rather have a second main course, maybe a third, and at the end of the meal a large helping of local liquor. Thailand suits me well. Fact is you may not even find a dessert option on the Thai restaurant menu and when you do, at least in tourist restaurants, the choice will be closer to ice-cream or maybe complimentary fresh fruit. Not overly exciting. This post is therefore less about Thai desserts and more about Thai sweet treats. Treating yourself to sweet things along the way. To find sweet snacks in Thailand the best places tend to be street food vendors, local food courts and food markets. All perfect to satisfy that sweet tooth. Here are my top 10 Thai Desserts and Sweet Treats.
1. Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niew Mamuang, ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วง)
The most famous of Thai desserts and one which makes up for Thailand’s lack of choice. Mango sticky rice is seriously delicious. The sticky rice first soaked in coconut milk, sugar and salt before steaming in pandan leaves and served as a base. Sticky rice then topped with freshly sliced mango, drizzles of coconut syrup and sprinkles of toasted mung beans. Sweet, slightly salty and all-round delicious. While occasionally found on Thai restaurant menus the more likely place to find Mango Sticky Rice is food courts or even street food stalls. A half mango on sticky rice costs around 40 Baht.
2. Durian (Durian ทุเรียน)
Thailand boasts an impressive range of fresh fruits (Polamai) but none can compare to the Durian. The King of Fruit. The Durian maybe better known for its pungent smell than its taste (tastes like heaven, smells like hell). and its iconic spiky, green shell. Inside however is a soft and sweet yellow fruit with a creamy texture centered by a large stone. Rumour is if you like the smell you will love the taste. Also if you hate the smell you might barf. Similar to Mango Sticky Rice a favourite Thai Dessert is Durian Sticky Rice a mixed pudding of Durian, coconut milk, salt, sugar and sticky rice. Durian is hard to find outside Southeast Asia so make the most of it while here. Costs roughly 400 baht/kilo.
3. Sweet Sticky Rice (Khao Niao Wan, ข้าวเหนียวหวาน)
Sticky rice is the dessert of choice in Thailand with seemingly endless variations of sweet treats. Some of the more popular are found at street food stalls where sticky rice is cooked with favourites of banana, sweet potato, or black bean. Again flavoured with coconut milk, salt and sugar. A popular method for cooking is over open flames inside Bamboo Stalks (Khao Lam, ข้าวหลาม) or wrapped in Banana Leaves (Khao Tom Mud, ข้าวต้มมัด). For sticky rice in Banana leaf expect to pay roughly 20 Baht for 3. For bamboo cooked sticky rice pay roughly 30 baht for 1.
4. Sweet Mini Crepe (Khanom Bueang, ขนมเบื้อง)
These uniquely Thai desserts really stand out at street food and local food markets. Colourful and slightly bizarre. Found as sets of tiny rice flour crepes, filled with coconut cream and topped by sweet or savoury Thai flavourings. Three popular fillings are shown below and include raisins (black), fried coconut (orange) and foi thong egg threads (yellow). Often referred to as Thai Tacos. Pay around 20 Baht for a mixed bag of 5.
5. Banana Fritters (Kuay Tod / Kuay Kaek กล้วยแขก)
After deep frying these Thai desserts arrive warm, tough and chewy. The Thai banana fritter makes use of local plantains which, for those who don’t know, are short fat bananas often used by tourists to feed elephants. The batter is flavoured using flesh of brown coconut, palm sugar and sesame seeds. As a popular street food banana fritters are occasionally sold through car windows by masked men weaving city traffic. They are also easier found in Northern Thailand where plantains are found in abundance. A small bag costs around 2o Baht.
6. Coconut Ice-Cream (Itim Kati ไอติมกะทิ)
Delicious and cooling the versatile coconut has a prominent role in Thai Desserts through flavouring, cooking and in this case straight up eating. Coconut ice-cream, topped with the loose coconut flesh and tasty additions of nuts, jelly pieces, mung beans, fruit or sweetcorn. Of course served in a half coconut husk. These refreshing Thai Desserts come often with two options; young coconuts (maprao awn) and the sweeter roasted coconut (maprao pao) which has been cooked over flaming charcoals. Cost roughly 30 Baht.
7. Shaved Ice Dessert (Nam Keng Sai, น้ำแข็งใส)
The enjoyment is endless with this popular Thai dessert. With so many variations you will never get bored. While the shaved ice itself isn’t overly exciting (plain ice) the additions are what make this Thai dessert tasty. Fruits, beans, nuts, sweets, odd glutinous blobs. Take your pick. One of my favourie shaved ice desserts is Dao Tung a sugarcane and longan syrup served with red bean, barley and longon. Shaved iced deserts are best found at food courts and are occasionally offered as sets on local restaurant menus. Cost roughly 20 Baht.
8. Banana Pancake (Roti Kuay, โรตีกล้วย)
A crepe-like pancake wrapped over egg and banana. Topped with sugar and condensed milk. This Thai Dessert is not suitable for diabetics. The Banana Pancake is my guilty pleasure and is a popular street food snack which is often sold by Southern Thai Muslims. Popular in the evening hours they often unexpectedly pop up at street corners. Cost roughly 25 baht per crepe.
9. Sesame Balls in Ginger Syrup (Bua Loy Nam Khing, บัวลอยน้ำขิง)
These Chinese inspired Thai desserts are better found in predominantly Chinese areas. Bangkok’s Chinatown the perfect example where evening hawkers dish out assortments of tasty, beans, fruits and sweet dumplings into bowls of soy milks and syrups. Take your pick. My favourite is the Bua Loy Nam Khing a ginger syrup with big balls of glutinous rice flour (Tang Yuan) stuffed with sweet bean paste. Expect a strong kick from the ginger. Pay roughly 30 Baht.
10. Thai Donuts (Pa Thong Ko, ปาท่องโก๋)
A favourite breakfast snack these Thai Donuts are found deep frying by roadsides in the morning hours. Otherwise they can be tricky to track down. Pa Thong Ko are made from flour, yeast, baking soda and seasoned with salt and sugar. Delicious when served with soy milk, sweet custard or my personal teeth rotting favourite condensed milk. Try dipping them in your coffee.