Every night in Chinatown, colourful sweetmeats and simmering pots of sugar syrup attract sweet-tooths in their thousands. Chinese-style desserts are hugely popular in this street-food haven, but many foreigners don’t know the first thing about them. At Sweet Time, sampling these distinctive goodies is as easy as pie.
Set on a bustling stretch of Yaowarat Road, this no-frills street eatery is consistently packed with crowds of younger Thais who come to socialise over desserts. Couples and solo travellers can grab a stool at smaller tables squeezed into corners of the footpath. A team of servers donning yellow aprons shout orders over the electrifying hum of Yaowarat at night. Back at the cart, workers piece together each dessert from a colourful spread of ready-made ingredients.
While Chinese-style dessert shops can be found all over Chinatown, most of them are difficult for non-Thai-speakers to approach. Even if using the English names, many of the ingredients will be obscure to all but the most food-savvy Westerners, and an overwhelming array of options are available from each stall. Saving you from a lot of confused pointing, Sweet Time slaps English menus with photos on every table.
Served like a soup — hot or cold — in small bowls filled with sugar syrup, ginger syrup, longan syrup or sweetened coconut milk, the bite-size possibilities include gingko seeds, water chestnut, sweet potato, black sesame balls, deep-fried bean curd, candied bael fruit and squishy green strips of grass jelly (lod chong). The menu suggests popular combinations, but you’re also free to mix and match.
While most items cost between 20 and 50 baht, the edible bird’s nest with syrup is sold in three sizes ranging from 100 to 300 baht. We passed on this ultra-sweet Chinese delicacy in favour of something more refreshing: pandan-flavoured sago (tapioca pearls) with marble-size spheres of cantaloupe in sweet and icy coconut milk.
Next time we’ll go for bua loy, a traditional Thai dessert with rice flour balls made from taro, pandan, butterfly pea flower and other ingredients, bobbing in a warm coconut broth. More adventurous palates might try chao kuay, gelatinous chunks of a black herbal tea that’s supposed to be very healthy. You might also snatch a plate of durian with sticky rice, sold by a neighbouring street cart.
Sweet Time is located in the heart of Chinatown, just west of Yaowarat Soi 9 on the south side of Yaowarat Road. Look for big red umbrellas, yellow aprons and a crowd of young locals.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
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