I can't believe summer is creeping in again. 🥵🥵 When I was a kid, end of February - beginning of March was still winter-ish. However, it's been super hot in recent years. Like, I-can-feel-my-skin-burning hot. And what else can this weather call for if not a shaved ice dessert?
In Thailand, we enjoy so many desserts with shaved ice all year round, but there's the mother of them all, and that's nam kang sai. For all the curious minds out there, in Thai, nam kang means ice, and sai, in this case, means shaved. Therefore, nam kang sai means shaved ice. (I stand my ground that Thai is an easy language!)
Add any toppings you like to a dessert bowl, top with shaved ice, pour some sweet syrup over, drizzle the top with condensed milk, and you have it --- a bowl of nam kang sai. The best part about this Thai shaved ice dessert is that you can choose any toppings and syrup you like and add as much of anything as you want. Some of the most common toppings include bread, basil seeds, rubies, jackfruit, grass jelly, red beans, and candied sweet potatoes, taro, pineapple and pumpkin. For the syrup to bath your ice in, the classic has got to be nam daeng (red syrup), but you'll also see nam keo (green syrup), and the coconut milk + syrup combo at nam kang sai places or carts in Thailand.
I don't think I'm biased, but I'm gonna say most Thai kids start their nam kang sai adventure with bread, basil seeds, and red syrup. This trio tends to appeal to kids more than everything else mentioned above. As kids get older, they venture into other toppings and develop their liking for some. But bread and basil seeds never get old for anybody. If you want to remind a Thai person living abroad of their childhood through food, this is the way to go. 🙂
How to Make Thai Shaved Ice Dessert (Nam Kang Sai) with Bread and Basil Seeds
The Basil Seeds
You can get dried basil seeds from your local Asian store. These little guys have some health benefits, but you need to make sure you soak them long enough to let them gel. If not they'll continue to gel in your stomach with whatever liquid in there, and that'll be harm your body instead! For 1 teaspoon of dried basil seeds, you'll need half a cup of warm water and about half an hour to soak them. You can do this 1 day in advance and store the soaked seeds in the fridge.
Normally the bread used for nam kang sai is soft bread cut into chunky bite-size pieces. However, I don't usually buy loaves, so I like to make croutons from my sandwich bread to eat with nam kang sai. I have to say I actually like the crunchy croutons more than soft bread.
As you can imagine, nam kang sai is best with fluffy shaved ice. As I was lucky enough to receive an electric ice shaver from someone a long time ago, this is easy for me. Though I understand that not everyone wants to invest in an ice shaver - I mean, I probably wouldn't buy one myself. So if you don't have one, you can use your blender or crush the ice with a pestle.
In Thailand we use Hale's Blue Boy flavored syrups. And like I said, the flavors that tend to be the most popular are sala (red) and cream soda (green). I personally like the sala one, but you can choose whatever flavor you like. Note that these syrups are artificial. So if you don't like this fact, definitely go with a different brand.
This post isn't sponsored by Hale's Blue Boy, by the way, but I just want to let you all know how Thai people actually roll when it comes to nam kang sai!
The Condensed Milk
Evil as it is, condensed milk is what completes the Thai shaved ice dessert. You don't need to use a lot of this, just a few drizzles over the top. If you don't like condensed milk, don't to use it. But hey, it won't be the same. 😛
Nam kang sai is assembled in layers. Ironically, you start with the toppings at the bottom, followed by ice, syrup, and condensed milk. But because I'm using croutons in this recipe (well, not really a recipe) and I want to enjoy the crunchy texture, I put the croutons on top of the ice before slathering the ice with syrup. If you're not using croutons, go ahead and place all your toppings at the bottom of the bowl.
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed creating it. (The best part was, for sure, when I got to sit down and start tucking into my nam kang sai.) Next time you're looking for something to keep you cool in the summer, be sure to give this refreshing dessert a try. I guarantee you'll love it!
Shaved Ice Dessert - Thai Style | Nam Kang Sai Recipe
- 1 tablespoon dried basil seeds
- 1 cup shaved ice
- 10 grams croutons or bread cut into chunky bite–size pieces
- 3 tablespoons red syrup or any of your choice
- 1 teaspoon sweetened condensed milk
- Soak dried basil seeds in ½ cup of warm water for 30 minutes. (You can do this overnight.)
- Assemble the dessert in a bowl by layering soaked basil seeds, ice, and croutons in order.
- Pour as much syrup as you want over the ice and drizzle with condensed milk.
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