Traditional Thai custardy coconut pancakes
To some extent the literal translation of khanom krok is misleading, because they are not pancakes—at least not as Brits know them. Those looking for the large, brown, lemon drizzled discs of batter that gave rise to the expression flat as a pancake will be perturbed by the sight of these.
They are not flat. They are not brown. Nor do they lend themselves to lemon juice, chocolate sauce or banana. They are sweet, but only in a gentle, mild-mannered, whispering sense—tempered, in this case, by the addition of pitch-black sesame seeds. “They are made with coconut milk and rice flour. They’re a traditional Thai street food,” says Phi behind the Khanom Krok stall. “We top ours with sesame seeds, but there you’ll also find toppings of spring onion, sweetcorn or taro.”
Their size is initially startling, until you realise the quantity coming your way easily compensates for the smallness of the white discs, the exact size and shape of flying saucer sweets (albeit infinitely more rewarding). There are seven pancakes in total per portion, prepared fresh in dedicated pans studded with moulds, like canyons on the moon. “They were a popular breakfast dish in Bangkok, but they are quite rare these days,” Phi continues.
Luckily, at Borough Market they’re still going strong—from the perspective of food heritage, but also because these squidgy, custardy, comfortingly coconutty little numbers are a delicious point of difference in an increasingly homogenised treat world.