Internationally renowned chef and Thai food expert, David Thompson, shares some sensation street food recipes from Bangkok with CD-Traveller readers. Today: Thai cup cakes
THAI CUP CAKES
These wonderful cakes are eaten throughout the day – and they deserve to be. They are addictive . . . although cakes is perhaps not a true description of these crisp, golden-skinned wafer cups with soft and creamy centres. Be careful when they just come out as when they are fresh and hot, the centres are molten. But I suspect that won’t stop you from being compelled to eat several: I certainly am.
Makes 40 cakes or 20 pairs, enough for four-five
Grated coconut wrapped in muslin (cheesecloth) or a little vegetable oil, for greasing moulds
Small pinch of lime paste
125 g (4 oz) rice flour
1 scant teaspoon arrowroot flour
1 1/2tablespoons of cooked jasmine rice
Four tablespoons of grated coconut
Two tablespoons of thick coconut cream
A good pinch of salt
3–4 tablespoons white sugar
Pinch of salt
250 ml (9fl oz) coconut cream
2 tablespoons chopped spring (green)
Onions – optional
2 tablespoons boiled corn kernels – optional
2 tablespoons steamed cubed taro – optional
* First make the batter. Dissolve the lime paste in 175 ml (6 fl oz) water and wait for 15 minutes until it has completely precipitated. Drain off and reserve the lime water, discarding the sludgy residue.
* Mix the rice and arrowroot flours together with 2–3 tablespoons of plain water. Knead to a slightly wet, dough-like consistency. Add a further 2–3 tablespoons of plain water bit by bit to make a thick batter. Leave the batter to rest, covered, for an hour or so.
* Meanwhile puree the rice, grated coconut and 125ml (4fl oz) of the lime water in an electric blender until smooth. (Keep the remainder of the lime water for later use.) Add the coconut cream, the salt and perhaps a little more lime water, then continue to blend until a fine batter is achieved – it should be quite runny but able to coat the back of a spoon. Make sure there are no lumps whatsoever; if there are, the cakes are bound to stick. Leave to the side to settle for a few hours at room temperature or refrigerate overnight.
* Bring the batter to room temperature before using. It will probably be necessary to lighten and dilute it with a tablespoon or two of the remaining lime water, but do not add too much otherwise the cooked cup cakes will be overly crisp and brittle.
* Now make the topping by mixing the sugar, salt and coconut cream together in a bowl, stirring until completely dissolved. Put this to the side.
* Heat the cup-cake pan over a low–medium heat for 4–5 minutes until quite hot – ideally over gas, but without the flames touching the base of the mould (a cake ring should be able to assist with this).
* Grease each well with some grated coconut wrapped in muslin or a little vegetable oil, then pour batter into each sizzling well until it is three-quarters full. Cover with a lid and cook over a low–medium heat until the cup cakes are just beginning to set around the edges – this should take about 3–4 minutes but it depends on the thickness of the mould and the heat underneath it. Carefully pick up the hot pan and swirl it in a circular motion to redistribute the batter so that it thinly lines each well to the top. Don’t worry if a little, or a lot, splashes onto the shoulder of the mould, it can be cut away later.
* Return to the heat and let any batter from the sides of the wells settle back in the centre. Cover once again and allow the batter to cook until it is just beginning to set. Gingerly add a tablespoon or two of the coconut cream topping to each cake – each well should be almost filled – then cover and let it cook for a few moments. This is the time to add a pinch of either chopped spring onions, boiled corn kernels or steamed taro to the mix, if using, just as the topping begins to thicken. Cover once more and continue to cook until the edges of the cakes are golden and the centre is slightly but not overly set.
* With a small knife, cut around the edge of each well and remove the cup cakes carefully with a Chinese soup spoon. Use the point of the spoon to lift the cup cake away from the mould, gently prising the edges of the cup cake from the well, then working your way down until the cake lifts away from the mould.
* If the first batch of cup cakes are not crisp enough, then stir a tablespoon or two of the remaining lime water into the batter. Just be careful not to add too much or the flavour of the batter will be diluted. If, on the other hand, the cup cakes are too brittle, then stir in a few tablespoons of coconut cream. Repeat until all the batter and topping is used, greasing the wells in between batches.
* Serve as single cup cakes or as culinary Siamese twins in pairs.
Thai cup-cake moulds
There are a few tricks to making these little fiends. Firstly, you must have the correct mould, which is a heavy pan with small rounded wells and a lid. These may be available at Thai specialty shops; otherwise any heavy non-stick, round-bottomed mould can be used. It must be well seasoned, otherwise it will be difficult to extract the cooked cakes. Season the pan by filling each well with some freshly grated coconut, possibly coconut from which cream has already been extracted. Heat the mould over a very gentle heat for an hour or two. Let it sit over the flame as the oil seeps out of the coconut. Don’t worry if it goes brown and toasty, as long as it doesn’t burn. Once done, wipe out the coconut, then rub and clean the wells to make sure every bit is removed. Never, ever wash the mould – it will destroy the seal, virtually guaranteeing the cup cakes will stick. Before adding the batter, rub the inside of each well with some grated coconut wrapped in muslin (cheesecloth) to oil them and help to prevent the cakes from sticking. Plain oil will do. The wells must be smeared with oil or coconut before and after each use. After every third use, it is wise to re-seal the mould with grated coconut.
Recipe taken from the new mini format of Thai Street Food by David Thompson, Photography by Earl Carter. (Conran Octopus, June 2013, £25).