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Thai Yai sweets

Posted date:  December 16, 2008

 Thai Yai/Shan-style sweets for sale in Soppong, Mae Hong Son, Thailand

I’m usually not a huge fan of Thai desserts, but have really been enjoying the sweet stuff up here in Mae Hong Son, northern Thailand. The majority of people in this province are Shan, also known as Thai Yai (or Tai), and have a different set of sweet stuff than the Thais. Essentially, they’ve made due with the limited set of ingredients they have at hand: rice (regular or sticky, or sometimes wheat flour), sesame and sugar, often from sugarcane (rather than from palm sugar, as is typically the case with southern Southeast Asia).

My favourite so far is suay thamin:

Suay thamin, a Thai Yai/Shan-style sweet for sale in Soppong, Mae Hong Son

I can’t remember what suay means, but thamin is Burmese for rice, in this case sticky rice, which has been steamed with raw sugarcane sugar and/or juice and topped with a salty coconut custard. A similar and equally common sweet is alawaa:

Alawa, a Thai Yai/Shan-style sweet for sale in Soppong, Mae Hong Son

made from rice flour, coconut milk and sugar. Both of these were bought in the tiny town of Pang Maphaa, also known as Soppong, and were among the only interesting things to eat there.

At the morning market in Mae Hong Son I came across these, which resembled donuts:

Thai Yai/Shan-style sweets for sale in Mae Hong Son's morning market, Thailand

Apparently they’re made from rice flour, sugarcane sugar and… sesame.

The last, and probably simplest of all, is khao pook:

Khao pook, a Thai Yai/Shan-style sweet for sale in Mae Hong Son, Thailand

This is purple sticky rice that has been mashed up with a bit of salt, then rolled in ground sesame. It’s then served with sugarcane syrup or simply a block of sugarcane (as shown above) and wrapped in bai tong tueng, a leaf from a teak-like tree that often replaces dishes in this part of the country. Amazing really, what you can do with just a few basic ingredients.

9 Comments for Thai Yai sweets

Great pictures!

The ‘suay htamin’ may come from Burmese ‘shwe htamin,’ (lit. golden rice) which is a brown dessert made from rice and topped with coconut peels.

Aung Kyaw: I’ll bet that’s it, as I don’t think suay has any meaning in Thai or Tai.

Those desserts wrapped in the leaves are so cool! Are they cooked (baked?) like that? What kind of leaves are they, palm? Do the leaves lend a distinctive flavor?

if you have a chance to visit paay, there are a couple versions of these tai yai desserts available on the thanon khon doen in the evening. the alawaa is particularly good, and there are versions using both cane sugar and palm sugar, but there is a different name for the other one. the khao pook, which is sold all along the street in the evening and in the morning for breakfast, is a rather underwhelming disk of pounded black sticky rice, grilled and then drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, roti-style.
and as for suay, come on austin. it’s thai for beautiful. i assume maybe the pronunciation is different?

Phillip: I think most of them are steamed before being ‘baked’ by hot coals on the top. The banana leaves are simply packaging and provide very little, if any, flavour.

Josh: I ate most of those in Pai as well, and they were pretty tasty. The khao pook in particular was really popular among visitors from Bangkok. No, it’s not the same word for beautiful–the tone is different (if you can read Thai you can see this on the first pic). I think Aung Kyaw, above, was right when he said it’s probably the Thai pronunciation of the Burmese shwe.

hmm…you’re right, the tone is different, i hadn’t bothered to read that pic

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