Here’s a favourite hobby we do whenever we have time – hunting for the best of Thai desserts. Usually, these shown delights in the bowl are common in any local rice-and-curry place generically called “ran khao gang,” at least back in the day when these usually mom-and-pop eateries were still popular and widespread in the scene of Thai street grubs.
These ran khao gangs are simply fantastic. Throughout the day, mostly from dusk to early afternoon, they offer assorted savouries – from variety of curries, stir-fries, deep-fries, munchies and so on – to go along with the steamed rice. Some places just cook non-stop until midday when all dishes on their daily list are set up in pots or large trays on the long table, ready for the customers to pick for their meal. Since most Thai savouries are not only very tasty but also hot and fiery, these sweet bowls are always nice supplements to have afterward.
Thai desserts are usually not as complicated or scientific as Western desserts or bakery. Most of the time they contain just three basics – coconut milk, flour and sugar, although many merchants can be more particular than others when choosing those ubiquitous ingredients. Also, Thai desserts are mostly based on local fruits (from durian to longan and from mango to sweet corn), hence fresh and seasonal and always interesting. These desserts are always the surprises; we never know what the restaurant prepares for the day until we get there and see for ourselves.
The durian and sticky rice in the first picture are from this place called Guang Meng in Chumporn town. A real classic ran khao gang set in an old shophouse complete with folding wooden doors, Guang Meng’s assorted savouries are always delightful with not only curries and spicy stir-fries, but also with my favorite of deep-fried butterfish or mackerels.
But if you are in town. Somsong’s at Soi Wat Sangwate in Banglampoo area is a good place to go. An epitome of the now rare ran khao gang, Somsong’s also offers assorted Thai savouries with steamed rice, Sukhothai noodles, kanom cheen sao nam (summertime vermicelli rice served with thinned coconut milk seasoned with pounded dried shrimp, garlic, chilies, fresh pineapple and lime juice), and the hard-to-find khao fang dessert – the creamy dessert made from young sorghum and, again, coconut milk.