Bananas Meet Coconut Milk in this Sweet-Smelling Thai Dessert

Bananas Meet Coconut Milk in this Sweet-Smelling Thai Dessert

Thai Bananas in Coconut Milk, or Kluai Buat Chi is one of many banana-based desserts that mark the country's lifelong love-affair with the local yellow fruit

Turn any corner in Thailand and you might come across small bowls of creamy, thick white soup, plump with chunky banana slices that seem to perfume the air with its fragrant, sweet smell.

Now go closer and you'll find that Kluai Buat Chi is one of the country's sweetest, fruitiest and all-round pleasant to eat dessert. Slices of local bananas are cradled in a bowl of pandan-laced coconut milk, served either hot or cold to locals and tourists all-year round. 

And it's easy enough to make too. You need just a few minutes of boiling the bananas to soften, then gently slipping the slices into a warm bowl of coconut milk that's infused with pandan's vanilla-y fragrance and the nutty sweetness of palm sugar.

Well, this dessert is part the country's big love affair with bananas, which is grown from end to end in the country. The sunny yellow fruit is a deliciously important ingredient in Thai cuisine, and many tasty banana signatures are made on the streets and sold in the supermarkets. You might be fans of some of their best ones: 

  • Deep-fried banana fritters: On the streets, if you'd fancy something hot, crispy and with chewy bite - hunt for Kluai Chaab (pictured). It's made by slicing the banana lengthwise and deep-frying. After that, it's coated with white sugar, and a sprinkling of nuts and sesame seeds. 
  • Grilled bananas: Kluai Ping is another type of banana snack that's grilled skin-off, either sliced or whole. But some say that making a good one is not that simple. It's thought that immersing peeled bananas in salt water, prior to roasting is a crucial step to extract the fruit's full flavours. And even more important than that is the selection of bananas - you're looking for mature, not ripe ones for the grill.

Related: Recommendations - Travel and Eat Thailand

  • Banana chips: Off the streets in supermarkets, you can also find banana chips (pictured). Fans of fruit chips will love Thai banana chips for its extra sweet and fragrant oomph, crunchy bite and smooth surface. In supermarkets, they are sold under wide-ranging brands, and are one of the country's top exports.

Beyond the fruit, the banana's crown, or yuak is frequently added to soups and salads. For instance, it's found in Kaeng Som, a spicy fish and vegetables curry eaten in the South, and can be eaten with Nam Prik, a sweet-sour spiced Thai dipping sauce. Nothing goes to waste, including the huge fan-like banana leaves, which are used to wrap certain Thai desserts like Khanom Tian, a pyramidal glutinous rice dessert.

Equally impressive is the sheer number of local banana varieties of Thailand, with some counts taking it to well over 30 types. The most common of all is Kluai Nam Wa, a small, firm banana which grows well throughout the country's varying soil and climates. It's delicious too in cooked dishes, including in Kaeng Phat Muu, a spicy pork curry with vegetables and fruit. When cooked, the flesh plumps up and is tender to bite, but not mushy like eggplant and pumpkin. Another popular export is the Kluai Hawm, or Cavendish Bananas. These are also fragrant and sweet, but are much larger and can ripen rather quickly.

You'll find plenty of plantations in Chiang Rai, as well as in the north-west area of Ban Klong Krachong in Sukhothai, just off the capital Bangkok. 

Learn to cook Thai Bananas in Coconut Milk from Thailand's top chef 

Chef TThitid Tassanakajohnon "Ton", posing in front of his one-star Michelin restaurant, Le Du, in the Bangkok capital. His contemporary Thai restaurant was named after the Thai word for "seasons". 

Now that you've read it all, join Michelin-starred Chef Ton as he shows you how to make his favourite Thai food, including top tips and substitutions, in Missing Thailand, Missing Thai Food. That's live from his Bangkok kitchen, Thursdays 6.30pm 13 - 27 August on Asian Food Network’s Facebook page. Save the recipe here and catch his second cook-a-long, Sweet Thai Bananas in Coconut Milk, done two ways, on 20 August, 6.30pm BKK; 7.30pm SG/HK.

Bangkok's world-famous floating markets, where you're rowed through small wooden boats selling anything from textiles to delicious hot food and desserts. The sweet treats range from an instagrammable mango sticky rice, to lovely red ruby chestnut gems and soupy bowls of Thai bananas in coconut milk. 

Meanwhile, if you're thinking of your next vacation to Thailand, get a headstart with our guide on what to do, see and eat. Plus, plan your trip and get the latest Covid-19 travel advice on the dos and don'ts in Thailand at tourismthailand.org

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