wide selection of delectable fruits but also with some of the best varieties to be found in Southeast Asia. There are more than two dozen kinds of bananas,
including a small, finger-sized species noted its sweetness, as well as mango, durian, jackfruit, pineapple, rambutan, mangos teen, melons, lychee, papaya, guava, fresh coconuts and countless others. Fruit frequently serves as the dessert course, but there are also other choices, including a variety of confection that are eaten as snacks between meals.
FRUIT AND FRUIT VENDORS Few Thai street scenes would be complete without a fresh-fruit vendor, his moveable shop dispenses a selection of succulent pineapple, green mango, crisp guava (often dipped into a mixture of dried chilies and salt), banana fritters, prickly rambutans, ruby-red mangos teens, and juicy slices of chilled watermelon.
DURIAN A controversial fruit among Westerners because of its distinct small (like rotten onions and stale cheese, one writer described it), the durian is highly prized by Thais, fetching high prices during its short fruiting season. The creamy flesh is usually eaten together with sweet sticky rice. Numerous hybrids have been produced by Thai growers, bearing such imaginative names as Golden pillow, Frog and Transvestite, the last so called because its seeds will not germinate.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLE CARVINGS The art of fruit and vegetable carving was a renowned skill among women of the royal palace and even today many otherwise ordinary dishes in restaurants are enhanced by a radish or spring onion transformed into an unexpected flower. In the hands of a true expert almost any firm-fleshed fruit becomes an object of extraordinary beauty.
STREET SWEETS Khanom is the general Thai word for sweet, and many street vendors vendors specialize in one kind or another to tempt passers-by. The woman shown above is preparing a popular delicacy known as khanom krok, in which a mixture of thick coconut milk, rice flour, eggs, and sugar is cooked on the spot in a special clay mold.
LOOK CHOOP(ORNAMENTAL FRUITS) On special occasions miniature fruits called look choop are made from a mixture of mung-bean paste and sugar, then flavored with fragrant essences and realistically colored with food dyes. The creation of these requires considerable skill, and, like fruit and vegetable caving, was one associated with the women of royal and aristocratic households, Decorative baskets of the little fruits are often presented as gifts on birthdays and other celebrations.
PORTUGUESE INFLUENCES The Portuguese were the first Europeans to open trade relations with Ayutthaya, in the 16th century. Among their cultural influences that still survive are a number of delicate sweets based on egg yolks and sugar, sometimes spun into a mass of thin threads through a special device made for the purpose.
SWEET SELECTION Presentation is an important part of the Thai sweets. Coconut custards and jellies are often wrapped individually in banana leaves, which imparts a subtle as well as serving as a useful container, with egg-yolk confections are rolled into golden balls and cakes are cut into varied shapes. Other popular ingredients include glutinous rice, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, palm sugar, slivers of fresh young coconut and mung-bean paste.
COCONUT MILK A number of Thai desserts consist of various ingredients in sweetened coconut milk. Thin glass noodles may be served in this way, as well as tapioca, rice-flour dumplings that resemble lotus seeds, and sweet blackened jelly cubes. These are often colored with shocking pink and green food dyes and served with ice.