Thailand has a number of sticky rice desserts that are wrapped in banana leaves which are a must try. These “boiled rice” desserts are especially delicious in Northeastern (Isaan) provinces like Sakon Nakhon, which have some of the best sticky rice in the kingdom.
Sticky rice desserts are popular at merit making festivals, and any type of large gathering of people where food is shared. You also will find these banana leaf wrapped desserts when visiting local Thai markets. They rarely will ever be labeled in English, so you’ll need to read the dessert names in Thai to know what you are buying.
Khao Tom Mad or Khao Tom Pad (ข้าวต้มมัด หรือ ข้าวต้มผัด): This Thai dessert is made from steamed sticky rice, stir-fried with coconut milk, stuffed with bananas, and wrapped in banana leaves. In the Northeast, this is also called Khao Tom Kluay (ข้าวต้มกล้วย), and peanuts are sometimes added.
Khao Tom Luk Yon (ข้าวต้มลูกโยน): This Thai dessert is made with steamed sticky rice (aka glutinous rice) and black beans, or sticky rice mixed with a filling made of pork, sugar, coriander, and garlic. The latter is eaten both as a dessert or a snack, and is especially popular during the 3 month Buddhist Lent period (Wan Khao Phansa), which corresponds with the rainy season in Thailand. This dessert could be wrapped in either palm leaves or banana leaves.
Khao Tom Hua Ngok (ข้าวต้มหัวหงอก): This delicious offering is sometimes referred to as an ancient dessert of the Lanna people, who inhabited the North of Thailand. However, this dessert (which translates to “Grey Headed Boiled Rice”) also has a long tradition in Isaan. It is made by chopping Khao Tom Kluay into slices, then topping with grated coconut and a sprinkling of sugar.
Khao Tom (ข้าวต้ม): This is a Northeastern Thailand (Lao) variation of Khao Tom Kluay, but with the sticky rice being mixed with mung beans and lard, instead of bananas. However, sometimes a vendor will abbreviate Khao Tom Kluay to Khao Tom, so to be sure you are getting a banana filling, you may want to ask, “Mee glûay máai? (มีกล้วยมั้ย), which means “Does this have bananas?”