As part of our intensive Thai language course, we were treated to the opportunity to learn and cook Thai food with the Thai language professors. When they asked what dishes we’d like to learn to make, I was eager to try khanom bua loy (ขนมบัวลอย), which is a classic Thai dessert with taro balls served in sweetened coconut milk. The dish literally translates as floating lotus because the taro balls resemble little floating lotus buds. I have vague childhood memories of labouring away, rolling the little balls, when my mother made it. After conferring with my mother as to the easiest way to proceed (as there are several variations), I was excited to try it out. I should note that, as for all Thai food, the measurements provided are approximate.
3 taro roots, peeled
1 cup glutinous rice flour
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
Boil the peeled taro until a fork can easily pierce the flesh (similar to potatoes when making mashed potatoes). Drain the water and mash the taro. Using a fork, ensure there are no remaining lumps and that the taro has a smooth consistency. Gradually add in the flour and knead the taro, adding in flour until taro mixture has the consistency of pie or bread dough. Add water if the mixture becomes too dry. Next, tear off a piece of the taro dough and leave the remainder in the bowl, covered with a damp towel. Roll out the taro dough into a thin, long tube and slice it into 1/2″ pieces. Take each piece and roll it into a ball. Place each ball on a tray/plate that’s been dusted with tapioca flour (to keep the balls from sticking together). Repeat this process with the remainder of the taro dough.
Thoroughly stir the can of coconut milk before putting into the pot. Bring the milk to a simmer (not a boil!) Add in sugar and stir to dissolve. Taste and season with additional sugar or salt to one’s taste. If the sauce is too thick, add in water to thin it out. Bring a pot of water to a boil. In batches, add the taro balls to the boiling water. When the balls float to the top, scoop them out and deposit them in the sweetened coconut milk. Serve warm.
I was pleasantly surprised at how well it came together. Indeed, it’s not the most challenging dessert to make, but I was proud nonetheless, as I don’t often try my hand at making Thai food. The sauce was sweet, but not too sweet, and the taro balls were soft and tasty. There can be a risk of the balls becoming hard or chewy, but these turned out well. Something nice to brighten up the dessert would be to add colour to the balls (a bit of mashed pumpkin or squash for orange, for instance). All in all, a sweet-tasting and relatively straightforward dessert to make!