Khanom Paat (A Celebratory Sweet of Coconut and Rice Flour)
The Food of Northern Thailand
"Khanom paat [is] one of the most cherished sweet snacks in Lampang. After seeing it made firsthand, I understood why khanom paat just might not be your everyday dish: in addition to involving some pretty decadent ingredients, it's also kind of a pain to make. I was given a taste, expecting it to be cloyingly sweet and sticky, and was surprised to find khanom paat rich and fragrant, with both a soft texture and a pleasant crunch from the shredded coconut meat."—JBF Cookbook Award nominee Austin Bush
4 to 6 servings
- 250 grams rice flour
- 150 grams white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups coconut cream (see note)
- 300 grams raw sugarcane sugar
- 150 grams shredded, unsweetened coconut meat
The day before cooking, combine the rice flour and enough water to cover [the rice flour] by 3 inches in a large bowl, stirring to combine. Allow to rest at room temperature for 4 hours. Pour off the layer of clear water on the top. Add more water to cover by 3 inches, stir to combine, and allow it to rest overnight. In the morning, pour off the clear layer of water, and add enough water to cover by 1 to 2 inches.
Combine the rice flour–water mixture, white sugar, and coconut cream in a large heavy-bottomed wok (19 inches or larger) over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or paddle. After approximately 5 minutes, the mixture should be lightly simmering; at 10 minutes it should have the consistency of a thick, bubbling porridge; at 15 minutes the mixture should be slightly viscous; and at 30 minutes the mixture should be thick and almost taffy-like. Next, add the raw sugarcane sugar and the coconut meat. Continue to stir until the volume has reduced by approximately a third and the mixture is dark, thick, and fragrant, about another 30 minutes. Pour the mixture into a shallow metal tray and spread it out evenly.
Allow the khanom paat to cool, and when firm, slice into 1 × 2-inch diamonds. Serve as a sweet snack.
Note: coconut milk/cream is the fatty liquid pressed from the grated flesh of mature coconuts, not the clear water found inside young, green coconuts. The richer coconut cream is obtained via the first pressing and generally is only used in sweets; coconut milk is obtained via the second pressing and is used in a variety of dishes, savory and sweet. This coconut cream is very different from the cans of “cream of coconut” that come presweetened; when purchasing it for Thai cooking, make sure there is no added sugar in the ingredients. If available, fresh coconut milk and cream are far superior to coconut milk and cream in ultra-high-temperature (UHT) processing or canned form. If you’re buying processed coconut milk, ensure that it contains no emulsifiers, which can prevent the oil from separating (a desired result in some dishes).
Khanom Paat is excerpted from The Food of Northern Thailand © by 2018 Austin Bush. Photography © 2018 by Austin Bush. Reproduced by permission of Clarkson Potter Publishers. All rights reserved