Khanom Thai – traditional desserts in Thailand
Khanom Thai, or traditional Thai desserts, are a must-have in Thai cuisine, with some recipes even dating back centuries. Many of such desserts are known for their elaborate cooking process or unique flavours, which are not as easy to find in the city these days with all sorts of new food trends popping up.
If you have no idea where to start, here are 10 yummy sweet treats to look out for and where to find out in Bangkok.
1. Khanom Chan (Thai layered dessert)
This looks similar to another famous Southeast Asian dessert, Kueh Lapis
Image credit: @nika1969
Khanom Chan is well-known for its colourful appearance, made up of layers of sweet and sticky starch-based “jelly”. This sweet treat has a long history, dating back to the ancient Sukhothai period when Chinese and Indian traders came to Thailand.
This dessert is also usually served with at least 9 layers, especially during sacred ceremonies where people believed that eating this brought one happiness.
It is made with tapioca flour, arrowroot starch, rice flour, and mung bean, giving Khanom Thai its signature smooth and sticky texture. It has a nice mellow flavour of coconut, and some also add pandan juice and other essences to give it added flavour and colouring.
2. Foi Thong (Golden egg yolk threads)
Image credit: @wan.sane
These days, many are familiar with Foi Thong as it is a popular topping in many desserts like cakes and crepes. These golden egg yolk threads are actually a Portuguese-inspired delicacy on its own, entering Thailand during the Krung Sri Ayutthaya period and remaining popular among locals ever since.
Foi Thong is made with egg yolks boiled in pandan syrup until cooked, giving it a delicious sweet flavour. Pandan’s rich flavour also helps cancel out any savoury eggy tastes. Nowadays, we can also see a crispy baked variation: Foi Thong Grob.
3. Look Choop (Mung bean dessert)
Image credit: @lookchoopbymhomprim
If you’ve ever visited Thailand, you might have seen pretty boxes of what seem to be fruits and veggies being sold at airports and markets to bring home as souvenirs. Don’t mistake these for any normal cherries or grapes though – Look Choop is only carefully sculpted to look like it!
Look at all that crazy detail!
Image credit: @madamchoops
This dessert was inspired by Portuguese marzipan, a snack made with sugar or honey and ground almonds. However, as almonds are not common local produce, mung beans mixed with coconut milk, sugar, and agar-agar powder are used instead. These “fruits” have a creamy texture and taste sweet and slightly nutty.
4. Khanom Khrok (Coconut-rice pancakes)
Image credit: @krua.co
Most are no strangers to Khanom Khrok, a popular dessert you’ll find people munching on at any local market.
These mini pancakes date back to the Ayutthaya period when the traditional indented frying pan used to make these was introduced. It always consists of 2 layers – the batter and then coconut milk – and toppings like corn, coconut, and taro.
The hot pan’s sizzling heat first gives the batter a nice sear, and the cooked coconut milk gives it a dense, cake-like feel. The pancakes are usually bite-sized, so go ahead and pop as many of these as you’d like while on the go.
5. Khanom Bueang (Crispy Thai crepes)
Image credit: @eatineraryid
Speaking of popular snacks, here’s an all-time favourite. I mean, if you’ve never tried Khanom Bueang, did you really visit Thailand?
This crispy Thai crepe is topped with a dollop of soft cream and a sprinkling of either sweet foi thong or savoury chopped shrimp and coconut. You don’t need to go too far to find these either, as they are sold at many street-side restaurants and markets like Chatuchak. You can even find DIY kits at 7-11 to bring back home!
Some say that Khanom Bueang came to Thailand from India during the Sukhothai period, while others claim that it originated in the Ayutthaya era. Whatever the case, we’re glad this exists.
6. Gleeb Lam Duan (Thai shortbread cookies)
Image credit: @wannhom_homemade
Unlike crepes and pancakes, Gleeb Lam Duan is a rare Khanom Thai can you will hardly find while roaming the streets. This snack is typically served at specialty dessert stores or sacred ceremonies.
Dating back to the Ayutthaya era, this biscuit used to be a sweet treat only made in the palace for the royal family.
This khanom is made by mixing flour with sugar and oil, which is then moulded to look like a flower. It is baked in an oven and smoked with a fragrant candle, which gives it an aromatic scent to complement its lightly sweet taste.
7. Khanom Babin (Coconut pikelets)
Image credit: @bas_thanyanan
Khanom Babin is a classic Thai dessert that is not as well-known among the younger Thai generation, as it’s hard to find in local markets these days. One take of this dessert’s origins goes back to Portugal – as many Thai desserts do -, inspired by a snack called the queijada de Coimbra.
Others say that this coconut pancake was introduced by a lady called Paa Bin (Aunt Bin), whose dessert was so yummy, it spread across the country and was thus known as Khanom ‘Babin’ after her name.
The pancake is made using young coconut rice flour mixed with coconut milk, sugar, egg, and chunks of coconut meat. The batter is then cooked on a hot plate, which leaves the outside nice and crispy, while the middle portion is fluffy and moist.
8. Khanom Mo Gaeng (Baked coconut pudding)
Image credit: @aoy_sirapatson
Lucky for us, Khanom Mo Gaeng can be found in many markets across Bangkok and other cities. Resembling a super moist sheet cake, this dessert is more of a baked custard.
It is sweet and dense, made from local ingredients like coconut milk, eggs, palm sugar, and something you wouldn’t expect in a sweet pudding – fried shallots. This is one of the most well-loved dishes in Thailand dating back centuries, so be sure to give it a try when you’re here.
9. Thong Ake (Wheat flour dumplings with egg yolk)
Image credit: @lillychaninat
Thai people are familiar with desserts like Thong Muan, Thong Yhod, and Thong Yip, but many have no ideas about Thong Ake. This dessert has a royal history, made with egg yolks and coconut milk and occasionally topped with gold leaf for an extra hi-so appearance.
Needless to say, this one is a pretty rare find too, as it is usually served at traditional restaurants. Thong Ake was first introduced by a Japanese-Portuguese chef during the reign of King Narai during the Ayutthaya period. The egg yolks make these look like little morsels of gold, which are topped with intricately sculpted flowers.
10. Khanom Thang Taek (Chewy coconut pancake)
Thang taek translates to “broken bucket”, and one look at this khanom will tell you why. In the past, this was known as the ‘poor man’s pancake’ as it was very cheap to make and easily affordable.
It was formerly only found at temple fairs and events, but Khanom Thang Taek is one of the most popular Thai desserts today and can be found almost anywhere.
You can find roadside stalls selling this in BKK
This hearty palm-sized snack comes loaded with tonnes of toppings like sesame seeds, corn, shredded coconut, and foi thong. It has a chewy texture, made with coconut milk, rice flour, and eggs. The batter also has clear coconut milk, which gives it a nice saltiness that goes nicely with the sweet ingredients.
Where to try Thai desserts in BKK
Besides local markets and roadside stalls, here are some pretty cafes in Bangkok that sell all sorts of Khanom Thai.
Given the current situation, we’d recommend calling ahead before visiting any establishment in order to make sure they’re operating normally.
1. Thong Yoy cafe
Image credit: @thebohobeet
Thongyoy Cafe is one of the most photogenic cafes in Bangkok, and dining here will make you feel like royalty back in the Ayutthaya era. Their desserts come served in sleek gold platters and are delicately plated, often looking too good to eat.
Image credit: @thongyoy_cafe
You will find uncommon Khanom Thai like Gleeb Lam Duan and modernised versions of Thai desserts like Bua Loy cake.
Read more about Thongyoy Cafe here:
Address: 88/2, Ari Samphan Soi 7, Samsen Nai, Phaya Thai, Bangkok 10400
Nearest Train Station: BTS Ari
Opening Hours: 8AM-10PM, Monday – Friday | 9AM-10PM, Saturday – Sunday
Telephone: +66 8 9262 4661
Thongyoy Cafe Facebook | Google Maps
2. Cher Cheeva
All the designs are intricately moulded and carved by hand!
Image credit: @chercheeva_cafe
Hidden in Siam Nitra Boutique Hotel at Ratchathewi is Cher Cheeva. This restaurant is where to go for luxury Thai desserts like Thong Ake, Look Choop, and Tagoe. The classy atmosphere and IG-worthy dishes defo deserve a spot on your IGs.
Don’t forget to get an OOTD shot at the entrance
Image credit: @nahatai_noey
Note: The restaurant is reservations only, which can be made via LINE @chercheeva
Address: 324/3 Phayathai Rd, Thanon Phetchaburi, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400
Nearest Train Station: BTS Ratchathewi
Opening Hours: 12PM – 6.45PM, Open on Weekdays and PH only.
Telephone: +66 6 2445 5565
Cher Cheeva Facebook page | Google Maps
3. V’Lacha Siam Dessert & Tearoom
Get a pot of tea to go along with your Khanom Thai
Image credit: @kengjirayu
V’Lacha is a quaint cafe in the Ari neighborhood where you can go to escape from the BKK hustle. The cafe serves Khanom Thai tea sets, which come with Foi Thong, Look Choop, and Gleeb Lam Duan. They have a good variety of teas – ask the staff for recommendations on what goes well with the sweets!
V’Lacha Siam Dessert & Tearoom
Address: Soi Ari 1, Samsen Nai, Phaya Thai, Bangkok 10400
Nearest Train Station: BTS Ari
Opening Hours: 11AM-9PM, Tuesday – Sunday (Closed on Monday)
Telephone: +66 6 3087 8888
V’Lacha Siam Dessert & Tearoom website | Google Maps
Must-try desserts in Thailand
Khanom Thai isn’t just rich in flavour, but culture and history too. Don’t forget to try these when in Thailand – well, after your fix of sticky mango rice of course!
More traditional dessert shops in Bangkok:
- Bua Loy Kai Kem – hidden Thai dessert stall serving colourful rice balls with runny egg
- Waan Yok Kumlung Dee – Thai dessert cafe with guilt-free options
- Nhombox J.Eat sells old school stuffed “matchbox” pancakes near BTS Saladaeng