Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Thanon Khaosan Dessert Cart, Sydney

Update Review, Dec 2016

During my previous visit to Sydney, I found myself swinging by the thai dessert hawker out in front of Thanon Khaosan nearly every night.  It was the natural evolution of the previous year, where I stopped by Chat Thai nearly every night.  But on this more recent visit, I wasn't quite as ... crazy?  I visited Chat Thai for dessert only twice, Samosorn once, and Aqua S twice, all repeats from previous trips, along with a few new choices too.  So don't worry, I was going out to dessert, I just choose to have some variety this time around.

On my second to last night in Sydney, I realized I had failed to visit my hawker.  Partially because, well, it just wasn't ever that good, I just *wanted* to always love it.  I couldn't leave Sydney without trying it at least once though.  I just couldn't.

As on all my previous visits, I was overwhelmed by choice.  So many things.  Did I want a pudding?  I love puddings.  What about the crazy looking thing with corn?  Or the simple mango sticky rice, it was mango season after all ...

In the end, I impulsed shopped, and got another lackluster item.  Doh.
Taro ... Coconut ... Something.  $5.
I don't know what this was exactly.  I pointed at it, and asked if it was taro, guessing from the purple color.  The merchant said yes.  So I went for it.

I'm sure it was supposed to be "taro".  But the base, which I expected to be a real taro pudding, was just bright purple thick jello.  It didn't taste like taro.  It didn't taste like anything.  It wasn't sweet, it was just ... mush.  I do not think real taro was used here, which sorta makes sense, given the bright purple color.

On top was a thick layer of I think coconut custard/pudding/jello.  It was barely sweet, but was very salty.  Salty!  I know thai desserts often have salty components, but this was a surprise.

Overall, this was just not good.  I was in the mood for something sweet, which is why I wanted a thai dessert.  Many thai desserts are actually too sweet.  This, not sweet.  The salty component was nice, and I did scrape it off and eat it, but it was not what I was going for.  The flavorless purple jello mush however just wasn't good, and I couldn't finish it.

The $5 price seemed high, although it was a large slice.

Original Review, April 2016

As I've mentioned a few times now, Sydney has wonderful thai food.  We always make an effort to eat as much thai cuisine as possible when we are in town (like Sailor's Thai, Longrain, Muum Maam, Chat Thai, Home Thai, etc).  You may also recall that I'm a bit of a dessert fiend, and, in particular, I love trying new things.  Thai desserts, beyond the basic mango and sticky rice, are still totally fascinating to me.  A few Sydney trips back, I went to pick up a dessert from Chat Thai nearly every night.  That extreme novelty may have worn off, but, my desire to keep eating random thai desserts has not.

The Cart

Which led me to the dessert cart outside Thanon Khaosan.  Thanon Khaosan is a thai restaurant in Thai Town.  I haven't been to the restaurant, but, when wondering through Thai Town, it is pretty much impossible to not notice the dessert cart out front, piled high with just about every thai dessert imaginable.  As far as I understand, it isn't actually linked to the restaurant.
Hawker Cart.
I called it a cart, but, really, the display is built on a tuk tuk.  How cute!  The desserts are all laid out to grab, and are replenished quickly by the worker as soon as one is removed.

There is no seating, so this is a grab and go operation only.  My understanding is that even if you eat in the restaurant, you cannot grab a dessert to eat at your table.  Takeaway only.

It quickly became my place to swing by to grab a dessert on my way back to my hotel in the evening, like you do.
So. Many. Choices.
I'm not entirely sure how many different items are offered, but it must have been at least 20.  Treats abound, you just may have no idea what you are getting nor how much it will cost.  No items have prices, nothing is labeled.

Expect taro, pandan, sticky rice, tapioca, and lots of sweet coconut milk.  Maybe some mango, jackfruit, or durian too.  So many goodies.  All for <$5.

The Food

Taro, Glutinous Rice Balls, Coconut Milk Pudding. $5.
The first one I went for was a soupy pudding, with colorful balls inside.  I asked the shop keeper what it was, and she said "taro".  Clearly, there was more than taro here, but I love taro and I love puddings, so, this sounded great to me.

Ojan took the first bite and said, "Why is there a potato in here?"  Um, clearly he didn't know what to expect from taro?  There was no potato.

Anyway, inside our container was purple, yellow, and green glutinous rice balls.  They were soft and mushy, and, although pretty, I didn't really like them.  They had no flavor, and the texture just wasn't very great.  Why would I want those?

But there were also cubes of taro, also purple, but since I love taro, I really liked those. Nicely cooked, good starchy flavor, yum.

There were also a few shreds of fresh young coconut, which I really liked.

The broth was a sweet coconut milk, and it went really well with the taro.  But wow, it was sweet.  Sweetened condensed milk perhaps?

This was served at room temperature, or, I guess, street temperature, which was a bit unfortunate.  It would have been much better cold.

Overall, not a huge success, but, I still ate all the taro, slurped up all the coconut milk, and walked away with quite a sugar high, so, that was a success to me.  This dessert was similar to the desserts from Chat Thai.
Green Tapioca with Corn and Cream. $5.
Next came another pudding-ish concoction, again in a clear plastic container.  When asked what this was, the shop keeper said "tapioca".  Not so great with the descriptions.  Again, I like tapioca, so, sure.

The tapioca was green (pandan perhaps?), tiny little balls, all mushed together thick.  Not a pudding really, just, a fairly solid mass of green tapioca balls.  Hmmm.

Oh, and there were corn kernels in there too.  The first time I had corn in a dessert I thought it was strange, but, it wasn't too strange to me at this point.  The sweet corn was a nice texture contrast with the tapioca.

On top was a thick cream, I assume coconut although it didn't taste particularly coconuty.

Overall, this wasn't very sweet, and it wasn't creamy, so, not a winner for me.
Black Rice with Longan and Coconut Milk. $5.
Next I went for another one with lots of sweet milk on top.  This was ... pretty good.

The rice was nicely cooked, some a bit all dente, but none soggy.  There seemed to be a mix of two types of black rice (or maybe only some of it was hulled?)

Along with the rice were some pieces of longan, cut in half, and there were probably about 5 of them total.

On top was a sweet coconut milk, similar to the sweet milk from the first one, although it didn't seem quite as sweet to me this time.  Perhaps the rice helped balance it more though, since it had a heartiness to it that the glutinous balls did not?

Overall, I liked it.  The rice was good, the textures were good, I liked the creamy sweet milk on top.  It was quite comforting and tasty.  But, I did want something more mixed in to the rice.  Amusingly, I found myself wanting ... corn in it.  Or just something to add some variety.  That said, I had absolutely no problem finishing it, which was a bit ridiculous, as it was a full pint of sweetness.

A few days later though, I had the version from Chat Thai again, and realized just how much better it was.  I did like the rice in this one more, but, the Chat Thai version has taro cubes, corn, and other goodies in it to break up the consistency, and the sweetened condensed milk on top is also salty, which greatly adds to the depth of flavor.
Coconut Cake?
And finally,  one that was not a pudding.  This was picked by a co-worker of mine.

When asked what it was, she told us, "Custard Cake".  I think it was coconut?

This item was not sweet at all, and the texture somewhat reminded me of the persian chick pea cakes that Ojan's family sometimes has.

This was far too savory for me to even consider a dessert and I did not like it.
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