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Patongko: The Best Donuts in Thailand

Patongko (ปาท่องโก๋), or Thai donuts, are a Thai street food that TasteAtlas has ranked one of the top 5 desserts in the world, followed by Thailand’s mango sticky rice (khao niao mamuang) at #11, fried bananas (gluay thawt) at #45, and bamboo sticky rice (khao lam) at #48.

So, the best donuts in Thailand are not the sugar bombs (western style donuts) found at Mister Donut, Dunkin Donuts, or Krispy Kreme, but the ones sold by the master “patongko” makers on the street.

The history of these Thai donuts stretches back centuries and originated in China, where the word “pak” means white, “tong” means sugar, and “ko” means snacks.

Today the Thai word “patongko” (which is sometimes shortened just to “pa”) has come to simply mean fried dough, as the donuts are neither white nor contain sugar.

 

ปาท่องโก๋ Thai Donuts & Coffee
Patongko (Thai Donuts) are often eaten with coffee and not dipped in anything sugary.

How are Thai Donuts (Patongko) Eaten?

Many Thais enjoy eating patongko with coffee or tea without any added sugar (and they are still delicious this way!), while others dip their donuts in sweetened condensed milk or custard.

Patongko can also be pulled apart and added to the Thai rice porridge known as “jok” (โจ๊ก), which makes this breakfast dish much more delicious.

Patongko is made by frying two pieces of dough together to form the donut. According to Chinese legend, this coupling of dough was once used to curse a married couple who betrayed the nation.

A nobleman and his wife were bribed by an enemy to betray China. Villagers were so angry that they stuck two pieces of dough together to symbolize the traitorous duo, dropped them in boiling oil, and then ate them angrily while cursing the couple to eternal shame.

Today, you can find patongko sold on the streets everywhere in Thailand, whether in the big cities or in smaller towns and villages. If you don’t see these deep fried donuts on the street you are walking on, keep an eye out for a little outdoor Thai market, and you’ll more than likely find them being sold there.

Who sells the best patongko in Thailand? Well, not surprisingly many believe that Thais with Chinese ancestry sell the best patongko. They allegedly use secret ancestral dough recipes to create “patongko jeen” (i.e. Chinese patongko).

You’ll often find these donuts being sold in the “chinatown” area of most every provincial capital in Thailand, including Sakon Nakhon. All patongko (Chinese, Thai, or Isaan) are sold for a similar price. That being 20 baht (60 cents) for a bag of 10-12 deep friend donuts.

When ordering the donuts, you’ll want to give the price amount of the order. So, if it is just for you, simply tell the donut maker, “Yee sip baht” (20 baht). Or if it is for several people, “See sip baht” (40 baht).