Deceptively simple, the recipe for battered, deep-fried unripe rice and grated coconut banana rolls (khao mao thaawt, ข้าวเม่าทอด) is actually quite challenging to master. Like so many Thai dessert recipes, this seemingly straightforward dish has a complex character.
Khao mao thaawt can be served by itself as a dessert, or it can accompany savory dishes such as fermented rice noodles with coconut and peanut sauce (khanohm jeen naam phrik, ขนมจีนน้ำพริก).
At the heart of khao mao thaawt are creamy Lady Finger bananas nestled in a sweet blanket of coconut paste (gracheek, กระฉีก) and roasted pounded unripe rice (khao mao raang, ข้าวเม่าราง). These banana roll-ups are then dipped in batter, two at a time, and deep-fried.
Hand-sprinkling additional batter over the frying bananas creates a visually impressive light ochre-colored crown – which is also fantastically crunchy.
The crispy fried batter coats the sweet and chewy brownish-greenish layer of gracheek surrounding the now almost-melted yellow bananas.
The origins of khao mao thaawt are uncertain but it is tempting to suggest that it was developed from the basic khaao mao khlook recipe (ข้าวเม่าคลุก): They include the same ingredients, but they differ in preparation and complexity.
Khao mao thaawt is also available year round, and so is an easier dessert to find than its possible forebear, khaao mao khlook, which is a seasonal dish that requires fresh pounded unripe rice.
Lady Finger bananas (gluay khai, กล้วยไข่) are preferred for this dish, with the optimal bananas being the smaller, semi-ripe fruits that grow on the bottom of the cluster (gluay dteen dtao, กล้วยตีนเต่า).
Gracheek Khao Mao
This brownish greenish-colored paste is made by cooking together semi-matured grated coconut and palm sugar over low heat with roasted pounded unripe rice. Soft and malleable, the sweetness of the paste will depend on the ripeness of the bananas.
The batter is composed of rice flour, glutinous rice flour, coconut milk and clear Thai red pickling lime solution. The batter consistency is important: it should cover the bananas with a thin layer, drawn into thin uninterrupted strands.
- 10 lady finger banana (กล้วยเล็บมือนาง) semi-ripe
For the Gracheek
- 1 1/2 cups pounded unripe rice (ข้าวเม่า)
- 1 cup coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
- 1/2 cup palm sugar (น้ำตาลมะพร้าว)
- 1 cup grated coconut (มะพร้าวขูด) white part only
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
For the Batter
- 1/2 cup glutinous rice flour (แป้งข้าวเหนียว)
- 1 1/2 cups rice flour (แป้งข้าวจ้าว)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (เกลือทะเล)
- 1 1/2 cups coconut cream (หัวกะทิ)
- 1/3 cup Thai red pickling (limestone) solution (น้ำปูนแดง)
- Roast the khao mao in small batches over low heat.
- Roast the khao mao until it pops and becomes crispy. Set aside.
- Using a Thai-style grater, grate the white flesh of the coconut.
- Squeeze the coconut cream until almost no water remains. Set aside.
- Mix the rice flour and the glutinous rice flour.
- Gently knead the mixture, while slowly and gradually adding the coconut cream.
- Slowly add the Thai red pickling lime solution.
- Knead the dough until it is firm.
- Continue to add coconut cream and Thai red pickling lime solution.
- The batter should sticks to your fingers and drizzles smoothly.
- When the batter has reached that consistency, let it sit for at least 20 minutes; at which point you should be able to drizzle long and uninterrupted threads from a height.
- Place a brass wok over low heat, and add coconut cream and salt.
- Add palm sugar.
- Dissolve the palm sugar while stirring with a wooden mixing paddle.
- Add grated coconut to the mixture
- Stir consistently until the mixture thickens.
- Add roasted pounded unripe rice.
- Continue stiring the mixture consistently.
- The gracheek is ready when it is soft and malleable. Set aside.
- Peel the bananas and cut off both ends.
- Flatten the gracheek to a thin layer.
- Wrap each banana with the gracheek, making sure the bananas are completely covered.
- Set the wrapped bananas aside.
- Holding two bananas at a time, dip them in the batter.
- Deep fry the bananas over high heat.
- Reduce the heat, and continue frying until the bananas turn a light golden color.
- Using your fingers, drizzle threads of batter over the frying bananas.
- Fold the batter threads into a crown shape over the bananas. The crown should remain light in color.
- The khao mao thaawt are now ready to serve.