Pumpkin is one of the few “cross-over“ ingredients in Thai cooking that can be found in both sweets and main dishes. While the eye-catching custard-filled pumpkin dessert often gets a lot of attention, you can also find this simpler sweet dish as well.
The most common use of the coconut is to make coconut milk (ga-tee), used in many curries as well as desserts. Coconut milk is not, as some people think, the watery contents at the center of the shell. It doesn't actually contain any milk either. Coconut milk is made by combining the grated meat of mature coconuts with some warm water and then squeezing the mixture through a fine cloth to produce a milky substance. Many of the original recipes I translated for this site started with instructions on how much grated coconut and water to use to produce a given amount of coconut milk needed for the recipe. However, even in Thailand, few cooks today go to those lengths to get coconut milk. They just go to the local supermarket, where plastic bladders of coconut milk are handily available in the dairy case. You will most likely find canned coconut milk in your local Asian market, if not the corner supermarket. Most Thai cooks don’t seem to like the canned milk, but it should work.
Among Thais as well as expats around Thailand, this dessert called Bua Loy in Thai is definitely a favorite. It's surprisingly simple to make, although it does take some time.
This is a rather basic recipe that will allow you to experiment with tapioca pearls. This dish is best served relatively warm. If refrigerated, the pearls will become dry and hard.
“Black beans for dessert?” I hear you asking incredulously. Yes, as I've mentioned before, Thais don't follow the same “rules” about what is sweet and what is savory that westerners do, although they can be just as rigid about their ideas. I've never seen black beans used in a Thai main course, but this dessert dish is quite common.
Although coconut milk is used as a base for many Thai curries, it's in desserts and sweets that the flavour of coconut really comes through. Coconuts are found in the tropics throughout the world. Some believe that the trees found their own way around the globe, by floating across the seas from one land to another, while others think that early seafarers took the versatile coconuts with them to eat and trade. Although the big commercial coconut plantations are in the southern part of Thailand, the trees are grown all over the country, including Chiang Mai.