Look beyond pad see ew and all the curries and you’ll see that Thailand is rich with desserts that are are delicious but not loaded with sugar. Here are ten that show why we are sweet on meal-enders in the Land of Smiles.
Various Pastries at Floral Café at Napasorn
Part flower shop, coffee shop and cafe, this quiet, welcoming oasis in the heart of the city near the bustling flower market might be Bangkok’s best-kept secret. Grab a table and an espresso, matcha latte, or pot of housemade iced tea, then order a selection of their pastries like very berry brownie, lemon poppy seed cake, or apple crumble cake. Select a fresh bouquet to be wrapped and carried away before you leave.
I-Tim Kati at Baan Phad Thai
Come for the many varieties of Thailand’s national dish—from vegetarian to grilled pork to mud crab—at this famous Bangkok noodle shop, but stay for the selection of irresistible desserts. A generous scoop of creamy homemade coconut ice cream is served with four bowls of condiments for your own DIY concoction: salted coconut sauce, peanuts, crunchy rice flakes, and green sticky rice. If you are feeling generous, you can share it with the table, but you will most likely prefer to savor it all yourself.
Thapthim Krop at Baan Suriyasai
Founded by the best friend of a former king and housed in a stunning 100-year-old Victorian building, this Bangkok restaurant draws in celebrities and other high society who come to sample the impeccable precision and beauty of Royal Thai Cuisine. Their take on the refreshing dessert boils water chestnuts with tapioca flour and blue (instead of the more expected red) food coloring. It’s served over crushed ice in a large bowl with a small pitcher of condensed milk poured over it all tableside.
Maprow Kaew Un-chan at Supanniga Eating Room
This Bangkok restaurant has three outposts in the city, but the location on the Chao Phraya overlooking Wat Arun might just be the most picturesque. Ditto for this dessert, which consists of a plateful of balls made from coconut, sugar, and butterfly pea flower (that's where the shock of color comes from). For a truly Instagrammable moment, order them along with a pitcher of blue butterfly pea iced tea, add lemon juice, stir, and watch the magic happen.
Sour Cream Ice Cream with Lemongrass and Thai Tea Crumbles at Front Room
The kitchen at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok's Nordic-Thai fusion restaurant is overseen by chef Rungthiwa Chummongkhon, a Thai native who spent 12 years in Denmark. Surprises on her tasting menu might include this meal-ender: tart and tangy sour cream ice cream is served with fragrant lemongrass sorbet and Thai tea “crumbles” made using a molecular gastronomy parlor trick. Try it with one of the chef's freshly pressed juices which give wine pairings a run for their money.
Kaw Krep at Mai Klang Krung
The name of this charming restaurant in Sukhothai translates to “bush house in the middle of the city,” and locals flock here for wide or narrow Sukhothai noodles served with or without broth and topped with savory accompaniments. You can even get noodles for dessert! Staff doles out bowls of noodles infused with green tropical pandan leaves, which are topped with ice cubes and condensed milk and garnished with edible flowers.
This ubiquitous street food makes for a snack or a not-so-sweet dessert. If you are driving or riding around Thailand and happen to come upon a shack with a wood-fired stove topped with lots of stalks of bamboo, definitely pull over. Sticky rice (white or dark purple) along with red beans, sugar, grated coconut, and coconut milk are roasted in specially-prepared sections of bamboo. Sometimes the treat can also have a sweet surprise inside: a center of coconut custard made with coconut cream, eggs, and sugar.
Nam Kaeng Sai at Tu Kab Khao
On Phang Nga Road in the heart of Old Town Phuket is this restaurant located in a 120-year-old building that specializes in Southern Thai dishes. The region’s tropical climate demands air-conditioning-in-a-bowl desserts like this one, where shaved ice flecked with red beans is brought to the table then topped with a sweet syrup that’s not quite strawberry and not quite pomegranate. Think of it as Oahu’s North Shore meets the Andaman Sea; cool off with a few spoonfuls and then hit one of the beaches.
Tubo at Blue Elephant Phuket
Chef Nooror Somany Steppe is the woman behind this brand of iconic restaurants and cooking schools with six locations around the globe that promotes and elevates Royal Thai cuisine. The menu is influenced by Chinese-Phuketian and Peranakan flavors, like this dessert which comes from a baba heritage recipe. Referred to as an “Andaman bird’s nest,” it combines adzuki beans (red mung beans) with sweet potato, taro, gingko, coconut cream, and tender young coconut, served in a hollowed-out coconut shell.
Sang Kaya Tub Tim at Six Senses Yao Noi
This all-villa resort in Phang Nga Bay is only accessible by a 35-minute speedboat ride—all the better to soak in the views and think about the stellar service, amenities, and culinary delights that await. The Living Room is the property’s beach-side restaurant with alfresco and undercover seating and Thai and international cuisine, and this dessert looks as spectacular as the bayside setting. Yellow pumpkin custard is topped with water chestnuts, coconut sauce, passion fruit, pistachio, and a scoop of coconut ice cream.