As you may know, Bangkok used to be known as the Venice of the East until its canals were gradually replaced by the roads that represented the modernisation of the city.
Most of the old communities that settled along the river became hidden and forgotten by the changing ways of transport as the road became more important. Recently, though, the rebirth of life along the river has been awakened again by the new arrival of the mega mall Iconsiam, along with other developments. Somehow those hidden communities are being rediscovered and revealing their old beauty and charms; sending out their voices to say that they are still alive and breathing.
One of those ancient communities is called Kudeejeen and is easily recognised by the high dome of the Christian church of Santa Cruz. This is an old Portuguese settlement, which has been inhabited for many generations, as old as Bangkok and even older. Local people in this community still carry on their daily lives in a very unique way. The centre of the community is the church, which is surrounded by tiny alleys that weave all the houses and local families together. Some of the houses are built in traditional styles that date back more than 100 years and some have been rebuilt in a fashion of mixing the old-style wood structures with modern concrete used on the ground level.
One of the alleyways to the left of the church leads to one of the local cultural heritages that has been passed down from previous generations–the art of deliciousness in making food. Entering the alley, on the left-hand side, I see a table along the wall, a gas stove, pots and pans, a few signs, and a lady sitting there seriously cooking something; I’m not quite sure if she is doing it for her family or to sell.
Another lady sitting on one side of the table calls to me to stop and taste this marvellous dessert. It works. I stop and order one bowl of creamy coconut milk with vanilla-coloured sticky rice balls called Bua Loy Yuan. I know bua loy already, but these look more similar to the black sesame-filled balls in ginger soup than the normal kind that comes in much smaller size, these bua loy yuan are full of stuffing made from yellow bean paste mixed with black pepper and a little salt. This surprisingly savoury taste of stuffing pairs quite interestingly with the creamy, perfect sweetness of the coconut milk – I’ve never had this dessert before in my life!
The lady tells me, this is an ancient recipe that her family has made for years and now she is the one who maintains the family legacy with love and care. For me, this walk in Kudeejeen is not just a walk back into time but also a path that leads me to a flavour I’ve never tried before.
Typically, she will make bua loy yuan on special occasions or when the community has festivals, however I was lucky enough to come across this dish at the right time. If you want to taste this amazing flavour call her three days ahead and a whole new door of experience in Thai dessert and other heritage dishes will be waiting to be opened.
Address: Krua Por Piang, heritage Thai dish at 207 Kudeejeen Soi 3, can be reached at 081 812 0989