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This ball-shaped dessert has a sweet coconut filling (gracheek), surrounded by a thin crust of pounded unripe rice crumbs, along with a tempting fragrance enriched with a Thai dessert candle or fresh flowers.
Demonstrating brilliant creativity and attention to detail, this classical Thai dessert uses only three basic ingredients. In this article, we have elected to follow the traditional recipe published in 1908 by Thanpuying Plean Passakornrawong.
The Filling – Gracheek (กระฉีก)
Gracheek is a golden-colored paste produced by cooking together semi-matured grated coconut and palm sugar over low heat, until it is soft and malleable – not too chewy and not too thin. The coconut should be thinly grated, using a Chinese-style or a handheld coconut grater. If granulated white sugar is used in the recipe, it is best to use flower-scented water to prepare the syrup, as the resulting gracheek will be lighter, as well as perfumed.
The Crust – Pounded Khao Mao Raang (ข้าวเม่าราง)
Creating the rice crumb coating begins by preparing khao mao raang – roasting the unripe rice grains until they pop and become crispy.
After grinding and sieving, the fine crumbs should retain the bready aroma and the pleasant green color of the fresh unripe rice. Its scent is further deepened by smoking it with an aromatic Thai dessert candle.
Using the palms of the hands the gracheek balls are rolled with rice crumbs, or with a mixture of the rice crumbs and the grated coconut. When the rice crumbs have been absorbed into the gracheek, the balls are rolled in rice crumbs for a second time to prevent them from sticking to each other.
A Thai dessert candle or fresh flowers, such as jasmine, damask roses or cananga odorata (gradang-ngaa, กระดังงา) add another dimension to the already delightful fragrance of the pounded unripe rice.
Modern variation of the traditional recipe:
- Using decorative molds to shape the dessert into various shapes.
- Using regular popped rice (khaao dtaawk, ข้าวตอก) rather than pounded unripe rice, in order to achieve a whiter color.
- Adding pandan juice to the filling to produce a green gracheek filling.
- Using commercial artificial scent in place of fresh flowers or aromatic candles.
- 1 1/2 cups pounded unripe rice grains, roasted and grinded.
- 1 cup semi-matured coconut, thinly grated.
- 0.8 cup palm sugar (about 200cc).
- 2 tablespoon water.
- 1 Thai dessert candle.
- Optional: fresh flowers such as jasmine, damask rose or cananga odorata.
- Over low heat, roast the khao mao, stirring constantly.
- In a pestle and mortar, pound the roasted khao mao (khao mao raang) into fine crumbs.
- Sieve the pounded khao mao raang.
- Using a Thai dessert candle, smoke the rice crumbs.
- The smoking should last for at least 20 minutes.
- This an example of a handheld coconut grater suitable for grating the coconut to the desired texture.
- Grate the coconut thinly.
- In a brass wok, melt palm sugar with two tablespoons of water over low heat.
- When the sugar has melted, add the grated coconut.
- Stir constantly with a wooden paddle.
- The gracheek is ready: remember that it will harden after it cools.
- The gracheek filling and the scented rice crumbs are ready to roll.
- Using the tip of a spoon, measure out equal quantities of the gracheek filling.
- Roll the gracheek filling into smooth balls.
- Using the palms of your hands, roll the scented rice crumbs into the gracheek balls until the rice crumbs are absorbed into the gracheek. Then roll them again in more rice crumbs to prevent them from sticking to each other.
- Using a Thai dessert candle, smoke the balls for another 20 minutes before serving