Let the Sweet Balls Roll
Discover the delicious smoky secret hidden inside Khanom Tom.
Words: Sarita Urupongsa
Thailand’s delectable sweet rice balls, or Khanom Tom, are tasty little treasures with an outer layer of crispy shredded coconut and a soft, chewy centre. Each bite fills the palate with a rich, perfectly balanced flavour and texture.
The balls, which date back to the Sukhothai Kingdom, are stuffed with a mixture called “Kra Cheek”, made from stir-fried palm sugar and overripe coconut. This filling is shaped into lumps before being perfumed with a scented candle – a traditional Thai dessert-making method in which the long wick of a beeswax candle is lit and placed between sweets packed in a glass jar. Once the flame reaches the wax candle, it is put out, leaving a musky smoky aroma to infuse the sweets. The sweets can be smoked in this way for an hour or even overnight. The result is the classic aromatic Kra Cheek filling.
Once smoked, the filling is wrapped with a dough made of glutinous rice flour and coconut milk. The pastel colours of Khanom Tom come from a variety of natural flavourings – purple from butterfly pea, green from pandan, and pink from roselle. The dough is then kneaded into tiny balls before being dropped into boiling water. When the balls rise to the top, they are rolled in shredded coconut and are ready to serve as soon as they cool down.
Khanom Tom can be found in almost all Thai dessert shops as well as fresh markets and food bazaars in department stores.