Khao thom pad is a classic Lao dessert consisting of a coconut sweet rice with banana wrapped in a parcel and steamed in banana leaves. This dessert can be found on any street corner in Southeast Asia, but is also a vital part of the food culture in Laos. It is a coveted dessert made for significant events, such as alms giving and baci ceremonies.
Growing up, we basically went through an apprenticeship learning how to make khao thom pad (and almost everything else). My mom was always keen on getting us to help in the kitchen and this dessert was one we usually helped her with. We might start out cutting and cleaning the banana leaves and slowly move up the ranks to being the wrapper. It’s kind of funny to think about it that way, but it’s a very efficient way of learning the traditions. And wrapping those parcels in banana leaves, that will take lots of practice!
This dessert is such a classic and is an essential part of your Lao recipe files. Luckily, it’s also a simple and delicious.
Here are a few notes:
• Customization: the dessert is easily customizable. You can omit the black beans, use red beans, add taro, or even use black sweet rice. Whatever your heart’s desire.
• To add a bit more aromatics, you can add a pandan leaf or two to the coconut milk while dissolving the sugar. Allow that to steep for a few minutes, but I would cook that over low heat as you do not want the coconut milk to boil. And remember to remove the pandan leaves before adding the rice.
• Banana leaves – I used frozen banana leaves and they are less structured than fresh banana leaves, so it is more pliable and easier to fold. If you are using fresh banana leaves, you may need to toast them quickly over an open fire. Or as previously mentioned, we have used an iron to heat the banana leaves. And if you don’t have access to banana leaves, it’s no problem. Use aluminum foil or even corn husks!
Khao Thom Pad
Makes 24 parcels
4 cups sticky (sweet) rice – soaked overnight
2 (13.5 oz) cans coconut milk
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cooked black beans (optional)
4 large bananas – peeled and sliced
24 pieces of banana leaves or aluminum foil – 8 x 10 inch rectangles
- In large pot or wok over medium low heat, add coconut milk, sugar and salt. Cook until sugar and salt have dissolved. Add rice that has been rinsed and drained. Cook rice, stirring constantly, for 15-20 minutes until the rice has softened and liquid has been completely absorbed. Stir in cooked black beans if using. Turn off heat and allow rice mixture to cool.
- To prepare for the parcels, clean and cut banana leaves. Place about ¼ cup of rice mixture in the center of the banana leaf rectangle. Place a slice of banana on top of rice. Fold the banana leaf long way, then fold ends in to close the parcels. If you do not have banana leaves, you can use aluminum foil. You can tie two parcels together, creating khao thom mut.
- Place each parcel in steamer tray and steam over boiling water for 35-40 minutes. Enjoy warm or cooled. Can be stored in the refrigerator or frozen. To warm, just re-steam for 10-15 minutes (may take longer from frozen state).