Shades and hues, and natural ones at that, are among the major attributes of Thai culinary arts. Green curry, Massaman or even the oh-so-ordinary Thai fried rice are edible versions of color palette. We know that turmeric and an assortment of chilies are the major influences behind Thai main dishes’ bright and bold tint. However, when it comes to colorful Thai desserts and beverages, we are often puzzled trying to figure out what jazzy herbs are involved.
To help you solve this mystery, let us introduce you to the raw beauties behind your Thai delish so you can appreciate not just the taste of your next dish, but also its vibrant colors, subtle aroma and the Thai culinary savoir-faire.
Blue and Purple
The light blue in sticky rice and a handful of Thai desserts comes from Butterfly Pea Flower. The deep blue flower yields a very mesmerizing shade of aegean blue. Want to add some twists to your dish? Squeeze some lemon juice in the Butterfly Pea water and watch the blue magically turns into purple.
Pandan Leaves are among South Asian countries’ oldest and best herbal friends. Thais chop them up, mash the small pieces with a mortar and a pestle, and boil them. The bright forest green liquid fused with the pandan’s piney scent is the unsung hero behind the majority of Thai desserts as well as some western ones such as Pandan Jam Roll.
Naam Matoom (Sweet Bael fruit drink) – your accommodation of choice will likely offer you a glass of it as a welcome drink. Otherwise, you might come across the sweet orange colored beverage, as well as its sibling Matoom cake, in Thai restaurants. A fresh bael fruit, although a little more oblong, is similar in size and color to a green tangerine. Today bael fruits often come in the form of dried orange colored slices. Once boiled, they exude the familiar orange hue and the sweet tinge.
As written above, turmeric is the yellow power in Thai main dishes. However, the aromatic scent sits somewhat oddly when it comes to desserts. This is where pumpkin steps in. Thai pumpkins, although less sweet than the Japanese and European ones, produce a yellow as mellow.
Finally, it’s time to reveal two local produce behind the black magic, because they are both vital elements to Thai dishes.
Because of its renowned health perks, black sesame seed is many Thais’ favorite way to flavor soy milk. Just a teaspoonful of roasted and ground black seeds brings a tempting aroma to both Thai main dishes and desserts.
The second one surprised even us — Burnt coconut shell. In the old days, Thais burnt coconut shells and soaked them in water. The piney scented black liquid is the local secret behind Thai Sweet Black Pudding, an old-time local sweet craze.