AYUTTHAYA — Somewhere between overly chic hangout and dowdy OTOP shack is Baan Khao Nhom, an unpretentious cafe – with a sensible price range – that also benefits local producers.
Baan Khao Nom, a rustic dessert cafe in the historic city north of Bangkok, will turn five this February – and although now there are several Thai dessert cafes popping up in the capital, its owner says hers was one of the first.
“My family and everyone told me that I would run out of business. ‘No one wants to eat kanom thai,’” said Thapakorn “Yui” Soonthornpruek, referring to Thai desserts. “But I was stubborn and confident in them.”
On a recent Sunday, both Thai and foreign customers were seated at every table, splitting butterfly pea affogatos (110 baht) and sipping on local house blend coffee (60 baht to 95 baht) or mugs of milky Ayutthaya Charming Green tea (70 baht to 80 baht).
The Butterfly Pea Ice Cream (95 baht) comes with a stick of thong muan, or crispy coconut milk crepe roll. It’s served on a bed of crushed thong muan in a glass, similar to how ice cream is sometimes served in granola. Mango, coconut and muskmelon ice cream dishes are also available.
Besides ordering ice cream desserts, customers can also pick up krajaad or shallow bamboo baskets lined with banana leaves stacked by the door and load them up with locally-made desserts on display – most are 50 baht or less.
Some of the desserts are made in-house, but Yui gets many others from “talented grandpas and grandmas who can’t sell all of their yummy sweets,” Thapakorn said. “I wanted to provide a channel for them to sell it.”
Don’t worry about sugar overload – the deserts aren’t as sweet as most Thai desserts found elsewhere. Thapakorn, 32, said she asked her suppliers to reduce the sugar.
“If it’s too sweet, then you can’t eat a lot of it,” she said.
Thapakorn was working in Bangkok when she had to move back to Ayutthaya to be with her family. Remembering how she would purchase Thai desserts from grannies paddling along canals on her way to school, she started visiting local dessertmakers to find sweets for her shop.
Some are commonly found, such as piak poon rice pudding or chor muang steamed purple dumplings. Others were hard to find like khao nhom ob boran, a box of pastel colored, floral-smelling pressed flour pellets with dried fruit.
There’s also cold desserts in the fridge, such as longans in butterfly pea juice, chao guay grass jelly and look choop, or sweet bean paste marzipan coated with jelly. Although normally shaped into miniature fruits, a box at Baan Khao Nhom had a set shaped like naam prik chili dip with a mackerel.
The desserts and pots of brown sugar are served in traditional white-and-blue porcelain dishes and the coziness is amplified by the decor of with pinto tiffin carriers and woven basketry.
Those who find themselves on a day trip to Ayutthaya should make a pitstop at the Thai dessert cafe – skip those honey toast and condensed milk-overloaded bingsu places.
Baan Khao Nhom is on Uthong Road in Ayutthaya city, approximately an hour and a half’s drive from Bangkok. The restaurant is open 8am to 6pm on weekdays, 9am to 6:30pm on weekends. This review is based on an unannounced visit.