You’ll want one of everything at this Hole-In-The-Wall Thai Dessert Shop in Phetchaburi
Words by Sofia Levin
Photography by Kitti Gould & Sofia Levin
If you’re on the road from Bangkok to Hua Hin, you’ll drive right by this khanom wan Thai dessert store in Phetchaburi. Missing it would be a tragedy, even if you’re not a sweet tooth.
The cessation of movement as our minibus pulls up is enough to jolt me awake. My first feeling is one of embarrassment; I’m certain I conked out mid-conversation and probably slept with my mouth agape. I blame the late seafood lunch, which we didn’t start until about 3.30pm and launched in a little over-enthusiastically.
“Where are we?” someone asks from the back of the bus. “Dessert,” says Palisa Anderson, the woman behind Chat Thai and Boon Luck Farm in New South Wales. “This is my absolute favourite place in all of Thailand. People come here just for the sweets.” I’m still full to bursting, but her endorsement is enough to make me leap out of my seat after her.
We’re in Mueang Phetchaburi district, the capital of the Phetchaburi province, which is the part of Thailand that borders Myanmar. It’s two thirds of the way along the three-hour car journey between Bangkok and Hua Hin where we’re headed. As we exit the minibus, stretching our necks and cracking our backs, it’s impossible not to notice the temple grounds beside us.
"...chunks of taro and jackfruit seeds bathing in coconut milk, sapphire-blue jellied basil seeds dyed naturally with butterfly pea flowers, six kinds of sticky rice coloured from orange to blue, sago dumplings, young coconut flesh in milk, little tadpole-like pandan jellies..."
Wat Mahathat Worawihan is luminous white with five giant prangs in the centre, the middle on reaching more than 40-metres tall. The sun has recently set behind it, it’s peachy light fighting against the consuming, darkening blue of the sky. Directly across the road is Nok Noi, a small shop front with display tables set up outside with more than 40 traditional Thai desserts. When the sun goes down, the shop opens up. I’ve never seen anything like it. We press ourselves up on our tiptoes and try to get a better look from behind in-the-know locals and Thai travellers.
Manning the colourful dishes is the elegant owner, I’d guess in her fifties, with her hair slicked back into a black, ballerina-style bun. Her royal blue sleeveless top has panel of flowers down the middle and matches her pant. Each brow has been meticulously drawn on and her natural lipstick and not-so-natural eye shadow are flawless. Though her attention to detail might sound intimidating, she radiates warmth. She smiles with her whole face, stopping only when she’s concentrating, and greets her regulars with enthusiasm.
Palisa turns to tell me that the recipes are passed down from her grandmother and then orders with her staff. I look in wonder at the tables. There must be a dozen tropical fruits candied in syrup, seeds of all shapes and sizes, fleshy chunks of taro and jackfruit seeds bathing in coconut milk, sapphire-blue jellied basil seeds dyed naturally with butterfly pea flowers, six kinds of sticky rice coloured from orange to blue, sago dumplings, young coconut flesh in milk, little tadpole-like pandan jellies.
Overwhelmed, we take a seat at the tables that have been pulled together for us, looking back over the road to the temple. Glass bowls rain down on us filled with almost everything. “Ohhs” and “ahhs” announce the arrival of a ceramic plate with individual mounds of the coloured rice. We hold on to our spoons and pass the bowls around. Swirls of palm sugar in coconut milk. An eggy whiff of durian. Puckering sourness of mango. Watery crunch of water chestnut. The alcoholic whack of fermented rice pudding. Tacky tapioca balls that stick to our molars. Satisfied, the dessert frenzy slows and I survey the table for anything I’ve missed.
An unloved glob of something brown, sticky and slightly textured protrudes from a bowl of coconut milk. What the heck, I think, and reach over. Not too sweet, more elastic than sticky and with tiny little nodules, it’s perfect. I take another bite. Toast. Caramel. Coconut. “What is it?” I ask Palisa. “That’s my favourite,” she says, “toasted sorghum porridge.” I offer the rest of the group a taste – an empty gesture – then finish the bowl.
Details Nok Noi thai Dessert: Khlong Kra Saeng, Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
Look for the colourful set up across from Wat Mahathat Worawihan around sunset.
Want to start with something savoury? Walk just under a kilometre around the corner to Pen Prik Pet for pork noodles that draw a local crowd. Choose from dry with soup served on the side or a steaming bowl with all the bits in it, including house-made pork balls, roast pork and pork in a super sweet and sticky red marinade. Beware: the chilli condiments on the table are fierce.
173/1 Phong Suriya Road, Tha Rab, Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
Around the World in 80 Lesser-Known Melbourne Restaurants
FREE food guide when you subscribe.