I haven’t talked much about Thai food, but I want to turn Thai-snacks tasting into a regular thing here. Since I started this blog, I’ve really enjoyed browsing the supermarket and convenience store aisles to look more carefully at the products they carry instead of just searching for things on my grocery list. I’ve discovered that Thai condiments and snacks have gotten very creative not just in terms of packaging, but also in the ways entrepreneurs have modernized traditional Thai snacks.
So here are the three snacks I picked out this week that I think are good introductions to old favorites and show the level of creativity of the newer stuff.
Rice Crackers with Pork Floss (khao tang na mooyong)
Rice crackers, or khao tang, are a pretty common snack in Thailand. And we eat it in various ways. If you’ve been to Thai restaurants outside of Thailand, you might have stumbled upon khao tang natang, or plain rice crackers with pork and peanut sauce. Mooyong is a Chinese import but has made its way into the daily life in Thailand, and not only as snacks. We eat mooyong with rice soup for breakfast or a late-night meal, for example. This way of eating rice porridge, with condiments of flavors ranging from sweet (pork floss) to sour (pickled cabbage) and salty (salted fish), can also be traced back to China. So this snacks is more of a Thai-Chinese creation. The more you know about Thai cuisine, the more you realize how there’s nothing that’s purely “Thai.” I have to say the Chao Sua brand’s version is not my favorite. I prefer this snack to have a more generous and prominent pork-floss topping and a greater sweet and salty contrast. I still enjoyed it though. This snack is ubiquitous, and there are many brands out there. I promise if I find a better one, I’ll let you know.
Durian Chips (turian ob krob)
I find durian chips to be one of the most addictive snacks ever. But if you haven’t tried the infamous durian fruit, don’t look to the chips as an introduction to the fruit. They are too different from each other in terms of taste and smell. And durian is most feared for its smell. The durian fruit is the most intense fruit you’ll ever experience. Its flesh is dense, its flavor rich and sweet. I love it, but it’s definitely an acquired taste. When I was in high school and a Canadian friend was in Thailand for a visit, I had her try durian. I was so sure she would love it. Plus, I had sung it praises during the months leading up to her trip. But as soon as she put a piece in her mouth, her face froze, and not in a good way. “Amitha, you told me it smells like shit and tastes like heaven!” Well, apparently to her, it smelled and tasted like shit. She might have appreciated durian chips a bit more, though, as it’s salty and nutty with a very faint hint of fruitiness. The durian chips by the five-year-old Kunna brand is made from the popular Monthong variety and is oven-baked. The brand actually makes healthy snacks, so I guess they cut back on salt as well. I’m more used to saltier recipes of the chips. Durian chips are very easy to find, and most don’t come in such a pretty packaging.
Thai Tea Coconut Waffles (phaen tongmuan choop chocolate cha Thai)
This is my favorite one of the three. Proud is an eight-year-old Thai snack company founded by two sisters with backgrounds in graphic design, fashion, and PR. I chose this particular product because Thai tea has been such a star in the past few years in the Thai dessert scene. I used to drink the orange-colored Thai tea with condensed milk on a daily basis when I was 17 and taking a year off school to intern at a theatre company in Bangkok. The theatre was located near the old Wang Lang market on the Thonburi side of the city, where a street drink like this could be found anywhere. My favorite Thai tea–flavored dessert so far is the Thai tea tart by the now-defunct but excellent French patisserie Let Them Eat Cake in Bangkok. But back to this snack, it’s important to note that waffle is a mistranslation since it’s written in Thai as phaen tongmuan, which means a sheet of Thai-style rolled wafer. This sweet creation blew me away at first bite though. It was fragrant with coconut—so delicious. I could barely taste the Thai tea and the chocolate. But that kind of didn’t matter since it really was a tasty snack.