No meal is truly complete without dessert. And when talking about desserts favoured in Thailand, old and young Thais alike will mention shaved iced. There’s no age that will deny the simple pleasure in this ubiquitous delight available in seemingly endless flavours and toppings to satisfy almost any sweet tooth.
There are different ways to serve shaved ice. In Thailand, a preferred style is flavoured shaved ice with bread, also called pang yen (“cold bread”). And the best example of this is Pang Cha (“Tea Bread”) at the MICHELIN-recommended Lukkaithong (The Emquartier).
“Pang Cha started in 2009. We had already opened the restaurant, but we didn’t have a signature dessert. So we thought about what would make a great dish. Around that time, we heard that Thai tea was one of the most popular beverages in the world. So, we thought, why not make a dessert using Thai tea?” explains Sangnarong Montriwat and Kanchana Tathiyakul, owners of Lukkaithong. Now, the dessert is so popular, people come to have it after eating a main meal at another restaurant.
“The dessert comes from childhood memories of enjoying the sweet, shaved ice as a treat to beat the heat. It’s so easy to eat. You can have it any time. Everyone in the family can simply enjoy it and it is perfect for sharing. And by pairing Thai tea with shaved ice, we turned a drink into a dessert. Who wouldn’t like it? (laughs) Also, our portions are huge because Thais love to share,” adds Tattiyakul. She continues explaining their ultimate goal to make Thai tea as known around the world as green tea.
“For the past ten years, we’ve been enthusiastically promoting Thai tea for international recognition because we believe that it can go far. If Japanese green tea is world famous, why not Thai tea too?”
After coming up with the idea, they served the first bowls of Pang Cha at their Thong Lo branch before they put it on the menu for sale. They gave samples for customers to try and give feedback so that they could adjust and improve the dessert before featuring it in their dessert selections.
Montriwat and Tathiyakul explain the difficulty in maintaining a consistent recipe for this unique sweet. “Pang Cha wasn’t difficult to think up. The real problem is with the tea leaves, which affects the taste and richness. So, we cannot have a set recipe because the climate affects the tea leaves. We have to constantly adjust the recipe for each season. Once we get the tea just right, we have to make sure to use the right combination of fresh milk and sweetened condensed milk for the ideal texture and consistency.”
At first, Pang Cha was just bread with Thai iced tea shaved ice. Then they added toppings, specifically three types of tapioca pearls. The glass pearls create a combination of chewy and crunchy textures. The Thai tea pearls add colour and aroma. And the black tea pearls, soaked in wild honey, give a soft texture and sweet fragrance.
Then they use white bread loaves instead of pound bread and top it all off with almond slices and plenty of whipped cream.
As for the shaved ice part, it is not that different from others. The secret at Lukkaithong is creating a fluffy mountain of shaved ice that looks and feels like candy floss by constantly rotating the bowl under the shaved ice machine.
So, what’s special about this Pang Cha? The highlight is of course the Thai tea, made from a blend of five different types of tea. These teas were selected for their distinctive traits. Some for their colour, some for their aroma, and some for their flavour. This combination is blended and brewed fresh every day. They do not use any powdered tea, so that the flavours are deep and rich. Poured over the shaved ice creates a mellowing effect, but, even if left to sit for a while, the flavours stand. It’s simply delicious.
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Hero photo: © Anuwat Senivansa Na Ayudhya / MICHELIN Guide Thailand