Aug 15 2011

Phnom Penh street food: Coconut milk desserts

Published by at 11:22 am under Street food


One of the most mysterious street food stands you’ll find in Phnom Penh (well, maybe aside from the crickets) are the dessert stands — covered in rows of bowls of what appear to be mushy vegetables, you’d never know you’d happened upon a Cambodian ambrosial secret hidden in plain sight.

Is that a mushroom in my dessert?

The coconut milk dessert sellers, for lack of a better name, specialise in a few things.

Jelly: A gelatin-like substance made of agar agar, a type of seaweed, is dyed various colors (pink is especially fashionable) and cut into shapes, with spaghetti strands and nuggets being the most popular.

Sago: Very similar to tapioca and used interchangeably. Most Cambodians are not satisfied with a dessert of just sago, they prefer to throw some sago pearls into a dessert with four or five other ingredients so you’ll often find it floating randomly in your bowl.

Sticky rice: The base of many delicious desserts, sticky rice is often topped with fruit and then drenched in coconut milk and condensed milk.

On top of these bases you can get a variety of other ingredients that may seem strange for a dessert, but are actually delicious. Mung beans, red beans, taro, pumpkin, dried mushrooms, jackfruit and other fruits can all be found in these desserts. All of the desserts are then doused in coconut milk, and some will have a scoop of shaved ice addded to make it extra refreshing.

Not much to look at, but they taste great!

In the large metal bowls on the counter you’ll find some pre-mixed combinations, likes jackfruit and sticky rice, or sago and red beans. If you order one of these, they will add extra coconut milk before they serve it. You’ll also have the option of adding extra ingredients like taro if you want to personalise your selection. The larger dessert places also bag up pre-mixed selections to sell to those who don’t have time to sit down and enjoy their snack.

You’ll find dessert places all over Phnom Penh, particularly in the post-school afternoon period. Each dessert costs just 1,000 riel, or $0.25.

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Phnom Penh street food: Coconut milk desserts”

  1. Roberton 12 Sep 2011 at 9:45 am

    I admit, the textures and ingredients took some getting used to. but the coconut milk base is a winner. And who knew black-eyed peas could taste so good?

  2. Sarah Somewhereon 12 Mar 2012 at 10:22 am

    I love Cambodian Street Sweets!!!! Though they don’t look that appetizing, they are surprisingly delicious, and definitely addictive. I have been known to have a bowl of these deliciously, sticky, delightful desserts for dinner. That’s what I’m talking about!

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