Nine layers of a Sweet Treat

Every culture boasts of delectable delicacies and no festival, special occasion or religious event is complete without some sweet surprises. India is known for its scrumptious desserts originating in different states. Meals in many households do not end without a sweet bite and some desserts take a really long time to prepare.

Just like India, Thailand is famous for its traditional desserts and recipes that have been passed down through generations.

Khanom Chan (even called Khanom Chun), or Steamed Coconut Pudding is a Thai dessert that is often prepared for auspicious ceremonies. “Khanom” in Thai means “dessert” and “chan” refers to “layers”. We all have heard of layered desserts or cakes but this one is a steamed, Nine layered delicacy which can take more than a couple of hours to makeprepare. Owing to its jellylike consistency, Khanom Chan is commonly also known as Thai Jello; although coconut milk gives it a texture that is much creamier than that of jelly.

Khanom Chan is made using rice flour, tapioca flour, palm sugar, coconut milk and jasmine extract for fragrance but the main ingredient of this dessert is the “Pandan” leaf which gives Khanom Chan its signature green colour. A large number of people can enjoy it as Khanom Chan is a vegan, vegetarian dessert.

So why nine layers? Just as the number Seven is important signifies perfection and completeness in Indian culture, the number Nine signifies progress and prosperity in Thai culture. That is why guests will mostly be served this soft, chewy dessert in weddings or religious ceremonies.

Pandan” is a herbaceous plant found in South-east Asia. It has a bright green colour and a unique, sweet aroma that makes its extract a popular ingredient in Thai desserts.

Long ago, children would relish this dessert, eating it layer by layer. With time, the traditional recipe has morphed into a convenient and attractive version that uses other colours and has fewer layers. You may find Khanom Chan in various colours (if different food colours are used) and with fewer layers at street-side food vendors.different artificial colors, has a fewer layers and can be seen at the street side food vendors.

This dessert takes a while to prepare as one needs to extract fresh pandan juice from the leaves first (though you can use readymade pandan leaf extract available in the market as well). You also have to wait patiently for every liquid layer to partially cool before the next layer is poured on it. Alternate layers of the dessert are a different shade of green or white, depending on the quantity or absence of pandan juice in each layer.

All layers need to be steamed in order to cook them. The final texture will be smooth yet a little yet sticky. Some people leave the dessert to cool on its own, while some may prefer refrigerating the dessert overnight. Small pieces of this steamed, layered cake can be enjoyed as a dessert or even as a sweet snack between meals.

If you wish to try making this delicious dessert at home, here is the list of ingredients you will need-

  1. 1/2 Cup Tapioca Flour
  2. 1/4 Cup Rice Flour
  3. 1/2 Cup Water
  4. 1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
  5. Jasmine Essence (just 1 drop)
  6. 1/4 Cup Pandan Juice
  7. 1/2 Cup Sugar

Method

a) Wash and cut the pandan leaves into smalll pieces. Take the cut pandan leaves along with some water (1/4 cup) and blend to make a paste. Use a cloth or a strainer and pass the ground pandan leaves through it. Collect the juice in a cup.

b) Put coconut milk, sugar, jasmine essence and 1/4 cup water in a saucepan and heat till the sugar dissolves. You can adjust the quantity of sugar depending on how sweet you want the dessert to be.

c) Transfer the contents of the heated saucepan to a bowl. Add the rice flour and tapioca flour to the liquid and mix the ingredients using a wooden spoon. Form a smooth, lump-free batter.

d) Divide the batter into two portions and add the extracted pandan juice (in the quantity you prefer- little for light green, more for a brighter green) to one of the batters. One portion of the batter will now be green and the other will be white. You can make three batters instead of two if you want different shades of green. Add a little amount of both flours to the batter in which pandan juice has been added; to compensate for extra liquid and to maintain the consistency.

e) Apply oil to the container you will be steaming this dessert in and heat it. Pour little quantities of batter into it. Steam each layer one by one. Let the bottom layer cool slightly but not completely and then add the next one and steam it again. Don’t forget to alternate the green and white batters. Cooking tip- Do not allow any water droplets from the steamer lid to fall onto the layers.

f) Once every layer is poured and steamed, let the pudding cool down to room temperature. You can refrigerate the dessert for a while and then cut it into small portions. If you wish to make a kid-friendly version of Khanom Chan, use different food colours instead of just green, to make a rainbow coloured layered pudding.

-Sailee Brahme

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