Most of the busy morning markets all around the north seem to have at least one stall selling deep fried twists of dough that would best be described as fritters, which in Thai are called patong-go. The dish and its name are apparently both of Chinese origin. Fritters are a popular snack throughout Thailand, although the specific style and accompaniments vary between the different regions. In Bangkok, these bits of deep fried dough are mostly eaten in the morning with a soya milk dip, while in the south they prefer a sweet syrup. In Chiang Mai's huge Muang Mai market, a large stall set up in an intersection near the centre of the wholesale section of the market sells classic 'butterfly' shaped patong-go along with hot milk or coffee. They even have a few tables where you'll spot some stall owners and shoppers waking up with a breakfast of coffee and patong-go.
A big pile of fritters on sale in a night market.
Fritters aren't just a morning snack. You can also find many stalls at night. Just inside the old city moat, next to the Chiang Mai Gate, there is a large selection of food stalls open at night, and here you'll find a couple of stalls selling a variety of fritters. One large stall is run by a family. Mother takes care of the selling, while father handles frying up the fritters in a large wok full of oil and their son works the dough and prepares it to be cooked. The stall also specializes in a light green custard dip flavoured with the aromatic pandan leaf.
No matter when or where you buy fritters, you'll pay just a few cents for each one. The price may vary according to the style. The most common type of patong-go is a 'butterfly' shape. At the stall, you will see the vendor work the dough into a long strip about the width of your hand. Both sides will be liberally patted with flour, then the vendor will cut the dough into strips about the width of your finger. He'll then place a dab of water at the centre of one strip and stack another strip on top. The water makes the two strips stick together in the centre. When cooked in hot oil, the ends of the dough sticks will spread slightly while the centre remains stuck together, giving the patong-go their characteristic shape.
Other variations include twisting the two strips together, or rolling the dough into a rod about a foot long, then folding it in half and twisting the two ends together, leaving an open loop at the bend. Another style uses a different dough recipe that is slightly sweeter. The dough is deep fried in lumps, without much fancy preparation. Known as sala pao tawd, these fritters have a bit more cake-like texture and can be eaten without additional dips or accompaniments.
All fritter recipes make use of baking ammonia, also known as hartshorn salt. Baking ammonia is an old form of baking powder, and practically unknown in the USA. It can still be found in some European stores. These recipes call for baking ammonia because, unlike baking powder, it gives the fried pastry a nice crispy crust. If you can't find baking ammonia, you can use the equivalent amount of baking powder, but the finished pastries won't have the same texture.
|Wheat flour||1 kg / 2 lb||Sifted|
|Baking powder||2 tsp|
|Water||660 ml / 3 c|
|Vegetable oil||60 ml / ¼ c|
|Baking ammonia||1 Tbl|
|Baking soda||¼ tsp|
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, yeast and baking soda.
- In a large bowl, mix the sugar, salt and ammonia into the water. Add the vegetable oil and egg. Mix well. Work in the flour mixture and knead until well blended. Allow the dough to rise for three to four hours.
- Dust your hands with flour and work a portion of the dough between your hands into a long roll about one inch in diameter. Use a rolling pin to flatten the dough into a strip about six centimetere wide and ½ centimeter thick. Dust the dough with some flour, then cut the dough crosswise at about one centimeter widths. Dab a few drops of cold water onto the center of one dough strip, then place another strip squarely on top of it. The water should make the two strips stick together at the center while leaving the ends free. This is what will give the patong-go its characteristic "butterfly" shape when fried.*
- Heat plenty of clean vegetable oil in a wok over medium heat. Fry the dough until they turn golden brown.
* A common "twist" to the typical shape is to take the cut strips of dough and roll them between your hands to make a round stick, then twist two strips together before frying.
Patong-go are often served with a bit of sweetened condensed milk for dipping. Of course, they also go well dipped in hot coffee with milk.