In Hua Hin, Thailand, about 120 km south of Bangkok, there’s a great place to buy snacks. Readers of this blog can be forgiven for thinking that all Kasma and I ever do in Thailand is visit restaurants and markets where we eat all the time. Come to think about it, that’s pretty accurate! Actually, though that’s a bit of an exaggeration, food is never too far from our minds in Thailand, in part because it is so widely available and visible. When we travel around Thailand we rarely miss an opportunity to visit a market and inevitably, over the years, we’ve gotten to know some markets very well.
Look for this intersection
Mee Chai Shop
(Click on an image to see a larger version.)
Look for this sign
One of our regular markets is Hua Hin Market, for we drive through Hua Hin once or twice a year on our way down South, both on Kasma’s small-group trips to Thailand and when we travel on our own.
Another reason we stop in Hua Hin is to pick up Thai kanom (snacks) at one of our favorite snack spots in all Thailand. It’s a storefront called Raan Mee Chai or, in English, “Mee Chai Shop.” It’s found directly opposite the main market in Hua Hin, right on the main road through town. It is just past Soi 55/2 and as you head south it will be on your left hand side.
Sign and Kanom Tian
We make a special visit to this store to buy a number of treats. I’m convinced that they make the best Kanom Tian in Thailand. You may have seen this treat in Thai markets and not known exactly what it was – it’s one of a number of Thai treats that are wrapped in banana leaves. This particular kanom is a pyramid-shaped, dough-filled savory treat and is widely available in markets everywhere around Chinese New Year as well as Songkran (Thai New Year). The Thai word, tian means candle, so it is the “candle snack.” (It is perhaps named that because of all the candles lit on the holidays when it is usually available.)
Kanom Tian, unwrapped
The dough is made from sticky-rice flour while the stuffing contains mung beans and spices, sometimes pork. The dough at MeeChai is particularly gooey and tasty while I’ve never had a filling elsewhere that is so peppery and savory; this one is pork-free. It’s worth a trip to Hua Hin (and this shop) just for this one snack. I’ve pretty much stopped buying kanom tian elsewhere because it always disappoints: it’s never as good as from this shop.
Here’s a recipe for Kanom Tian – Stuffed Dough Pyramid Dessert. Although I can’t vouch for how good the recipe is, I’m including it because it has a sequence of pictures that give a very good idea about how the snack is made.
Trays of custards
The second treat that I like at Mee Chai shop is their Baked Coconut Cream and Taro Custard (Kanom Maw Gkaeng Peuak). (Another transliteration of the Thai might be Khanom Maw Kaeng.) This is actually a snack that another town on the way to Hua Hin – Phetchaburi – is famous for; Thai travelers will make a special stop at Phetchaburi just to buy this custard. They’d be better off going to Hua Hin! I’ve had this snack from several different places in Phetchaburi and I think Kanom Maw Gkaeng here at MeeChai is the best I’ve ever had. It is an incredibly rich, creamy delicious baked custard.
Baked custard – Kanom Maw Gkaeng
One of the secrets to this delightfully rich custard is that it uses duck eggs rather than chicken eggs. I’ve made it at home using 100% duck eggs and 100% chicken eggs as well a combination of both; by far the best result comes from using 100% duck eggs. The other ingredients are coconut cream (the thicker the better), palm sugar, and taro that has been cooked and mashed. This dessert is very, very rich. With the Mee Chai version a small square is enough; I eat small bites at a time wanting the delectable smoothness and taste sensation on my tongue to go on and on and on.
The other snack we always get is a box of pineapple cookies. These consist of a pineapple filling between two almost cracker-like outer cookies. Although we see these cookies in many places in Thailand, this shop sells the best ones we’ve found, though I don’t think they make the cookies themselves as they do the custards and kanom tian. I find these cookies are best eaten after snorkeling for a couple hours! (Underwater Photos from Thailand)
The shop also sells other treats, other types of custards and also sticky rice and mango. Try anything that looks good to you because it is all good. They also sell a number of nahm prik (chilli pastes), nahm jihm (dipping sauces) and gkabpi (shrimp paste), perfect for taking home or as gifts.
Previous blogs on Thai snacks (kanom)
Serving sticky rice
Written by Michael Babcock, September 2010