It may not look like it, but these very Thai-looking sweets, photographed at a market in Samut Songkhram, are in fact Portuguese in origin. Here’s a description of how they came about, excerpted from an article I wrote a while back for Chile Pepper magazine:
Other than simply having brought new ingredients to the people and places they colonized, in some cases, by living and mixing with local populations, the Portuguese also had an impact on the way Asians cooked. This can be seen as early as the early 16th century, when after having secured the port of Melaka in present-day Malaysia, the Portuguese went abroad to nearby Thailand, then known as Siam. Establishing friendly relations with the kingdom that was based in Ayuthaya, the Portuguese influenced an unexpected aspect of Thai cuisine: its sweets. By introducing the concept of using egg yolks and flour, ingredients integral to Portuguese dessert making, the Portuguese had an impact on Thai desserts that exists until today. Remnants of this legacy can still be found Ayuthaya today. There I came across a variety of Thai sweets, probably variants of ovos moles, a Portuguese egg custard. These bright orange sweets included foy thong, ‘golden strands’, thong yot, ‘golden drops’, and thong yip, ‘pinched gold’, the names all including the Thai word for gold, thong, a reference to the color imparted by the use of duck-egg yolks.
Do I have any Portuguese readers out there? Am curious to know if these sweets still take the same form in their country of origin.
Stay tuned for more pics from Samut Songkhram’s very impressive market.