Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Breakfast Surprise at Hillcrest Farmers Market

I haven't stopped thinking about these little pancakes since I tried them a couple of Sundays ago at the Hillcrest Farmers Market.


These little half-dollar gems, coconut pancakes sold for a whole 25 cents apiece at the Saranya's Thai food stall, look as gelatinous as poached egg whites but, in fact, there's no egg in them. Instead, they're a rich, even sumptuous, sweet made of coconut milk, rice flour, white cane sugar, salt and sweet cut corn. Known in Thailand as kanom krok, the pancakes are pretty common Thai street food. They're cooked on a stove-top griddle reminiscent of a Danish Ebelskiver pan before being tossed onto a warming tray. At the Hillcrest market, they don't stay there long, not with market shoppers patiently lined up for this tantalizing breakfast dish. And, while you're there, you can pick up soups and noodles to take home.

Want to make them at home? Kasma Loha-Unchit's marvelous book, "It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joys of Thai Cooking," has a recipe:

Coconut-rice pancakes (Kanom krok)

3 14-oz. cans coconut milk, or 1 3/4 cups coconut cream
with 3 1/2 cups lighter coconut milk
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. sugar
2 1/2 Tbs. tapioca or arrowroot flour
3 Tbs. uncooked white rice
1/3 cup finely shredded fresh coconut, or 1/4 cup dried,
unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups rice flour
2 tsp. sea salt
2 to 3 Tbs. peanut or corn oil


Optional filling ingredients:
1/4 cup green onions, cut in thin rounds
1/4 cup fresh corn kernels
2 Tbs. cilantro leaves

If using canned coconut milk, spoon into a small saucepan 1 3/4 cup of the creamiest part from the top of three cans of coconut milk. Heat just enough to melt and smooth out the lumps. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool before mixing in 2 1/2 Tbs. of tapioca or arrowroot flour. Stir until smooth. Set aside.

Combine the remaining coconut milk from the cans and stir until smooth, heating if necessary to melt the coagulated parts. Allow to cool. Grind the uncooked white rice in a food mill or clean coffee grinder as finely as possible. Do the same with the shredded coconut. Combine the two with the rice flour, salt and coconut milk. Stir and mix until well blended and smooth.

Heat a well-seasoned kanom krok griddle (or substitute with an Ebelskiver pancake griddle) on the stove, in a hot oven or over a small round barbecue kettle with medium-hot charcoals. When the griddle is hot, brush the surface indentations with peanut or corn oil. Wait a few seconds before spooning the salty rice mixture into each indentation to about two-thirds full. The batter should sizzle when it hits the hot metal. (If you have a teakettle with a spout, you may find it helpful as a container from which to pour the rice batter onto the griddle.)

Immediately add a dab of the sweet coconut cream mixture over the top to fill and sprinkle the center of each cake with a little bit of one of the toppings, or leave plain. Cover with a round lid and allow to cook for a few minutes, or until the pancakes are firm and crispy brown on the bottom. Remove gently with a rounded spoon. Re-grease the griddle before making the next batch. Because rice flour tends to settle, stir the coconut mixture well before pouring onto the griddle.

Serve warm.



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