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Thai Treat is a Sweet Bite of History

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Khanom farang kutii jiin being made at the Thanusingha Bakery. (Zinlat Aung for VOA News)
Khanom farang kutii jiin being made at the Thanusingha Bakery. (Zinlat Aung for VOA News)

The Chao Phraya River is an important part of daily life in Thailand. The Chao Phraya flows through Bangkok on its way to the Gulf of Thailand. Years ago, many immigrants from Portugal and China set up homes along the river in what is now the Thai capital. Their lives soon changed in their new country. But one sweet food they enjoyed has remained much the same over the years.

The Santa Cruz Church has been a well-known building in Bangkok for hundreds of years. Nearby, in the narrow streets behind the building, you can still find khanom farang kutii jiin. In Thai, that means the "foreigners' snack of the Chinese church."

The way to make the little Portuguese dry cakes is simple. They contain duck eggs, sugar, wheat flour, raisins, and are covered with syrup and persimmon.

Cooking the popular treats is not easy. The equipment used at the Thanusingha Bakery is a trade secret.

But at the competing Larn Mae Pao bakery, there is no secret. Everything is out in the open. The muffins are baked on small stones. They are heated by gas from below and coal above.

This Thai woman says, "What makes kanom farang kutii jiin special is that it is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. But we never make them too crispy."

Kanom farang kutii jiin is also made without baking powder, yeast, or other additives. People say it really tastes like it did centuries ago.

The owner of the bakery says, "If someone from the 16th century tried these, they would say they're similar to those of that time. Some Portuguese who have traveled here say they do taste like what their parents and grandparents made."

The sweet little food of the Portuguese Catholic settlers is still making people happy.

This man says, "It's my first time having this. I will come back!"

The bakers of Bangkok hope people will enjoy their tasty treat for many years to come. It remains a link to the Portuguese soldiers, businessmen, and religious workers who first traveled to the Kingdom of Siam 500 years ago.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

VOA correspondent Steve Herman reported this story from Bangkok. Jim Tedder adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

Words in This Story

church - n. a Christian religious center

snack - n. a treat; a small piece of food eaten between meals

cakes - n. a sweet food that is normally cooked with dry heat

crispy - adj. having a firm, dry surface, but one that can break easily

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