Khanom Krok Addiction, My Sweet Medicine
Every now and again, I find a food that I become obsessed with… At home it was vegan ‘no egg’ mayo sandwiches (basically mashed plain tofu with vegan mayo, a bit of mustard and tons of black pepper) or tofu scramble (spotting a theme here?) or veggie sausages (hot, cold, in sandwiches or just on their own straight out of the fridge). I get stuck on whatever food it is that I’m obsessed with and find it hard to move on and eat anything else until the obsession becomes more of a very strong fondness but while I’m in the early phase of the obsession I could happily eat whatever food it is that I’m stuck on for days, weeks even. I lust after it.
Now the Vegan Food Quest is in full swing and we are on the road travelling in Thailand, I have quickly become addicted to Khanom Krok, a little dessert or snack cooked on the street in special pans that look like they could have been ping pong ball moulds in a previous life. I’d like to tell you what the words ‘Khanom Krok’ mean and I found various translations out there on the internet but the best one I cam across was from my translation app which tells me it means “Dr.Candy”. I sincerely doubt this is true but it makes me smile and also makes me secretly think that perhaps this food is so good that it’s actually like a medicine. They do temporarily suspend all ills when eating them, that’s for sure.
Basically they are sort of spherical (but in two pieces) coconut pancakes; crispy on the outside with a soft coconut custard in the inside (often with a little topping of two or three sweetcorn kernels, a few strands of pumpkin or taro but also just served plain). They can be sweet or quite savoury depending on the vendor making the batter but my favourites (made by Khanom Krok Lady at the Trang night market) are made from a batter that is both sweet and salty (in near perfect balance).
First, the ping pong ball pan is well oiled and then a thin layer of a batter made from rice flour and coconut milk is poured from a stainless steel teapot around the pan to begin to form the outside shells.
After this, the rest of the batter is poured into each shell and a big flat lid is placed over the top to steam the custard inside. Finally, they are chopped up and served in either a banana leaf or a polystyrene container or sometimes both!
When they are cooked, the outside is crispy crunchy pancake and the inside is just set, light, sweet/salty coconut custard. Every blissful mouthful is a food lover’s dream and I’m absolutely baffled as to why they aren’t sold everywhere in the world.
Not only do they taste amazing but they are vegan too (an extra bonus) and so I have developed a series of reasons in my head that urge me to purchase and eat them daily (sometimes even more than once a day). Sometimes I tell myself it’s good to support a vendor selling animal-free food (even if they don’t realise this), other times I convince myself that I’m actually hungry and so I need them for sustenance. Last weekend Khanom Krok lady at our usual night market wasn’t there, I admit I was a bit distraught and TravelMush and I had to take the Vegan Food Quest mission to the other ‘weekend only’ night market down the road to see if she was there instead. She wasn’t but we luckily found a different vendor whose Khanom Kroks were bigger and the custard more set (and also served in nice little banana leaf boats). They were good, but not as good as my favourite vendors creations.
So now, I have new reasons to fill my head with and encourage me to eat them even more (“maybe these ones will be better?…I’ll just try them for research purposes… The other ones are the best, I should get them now in case she disappears again…”)
We head off to the islands in a few days where the pace of life is even slower and there is nobody selling Khanom Krok (“I should get fill up on them now because I won’t be able to get them soon…”). I have a plan in place to sweet talk the cook where we are staying to see if she will make some for me but it’s a long shot and I expect I will have to come to terms with a life that doesn’t include daily Khanom Krok eating. Unless I just move here… Would that be crazy?