My Thai: Orange in Iced Spiced Syrup (Som Loy Kaew)

My Thai

Traditional Thai cooking with a home-style bent.


[Photograph: Leela Punyaratabandhu]

What is this? Fruit in syrup? Is this just like one of those fruit cups (made by a brand name that rhymes with pole)?

Yes and no.


Sure, this Thai dessert is as simple as serving fruits in a syrup, and it couldn't be any easier to make. But it's more sophisticated than that, at least in the old days when care was taken in infusing the syrup with fragrant flowers such as jasmine. Besides, you serve this dessert with crushed ice, making it cold and refreshing. This is why people love their loy kaew so much when the weather is hot in Thailand (that is to say, they love it all year round).


Following an old recipe from one of my mother's cookbooks, I have gotten used to infusing the syrup with various spices, something most people don't do when they make loy kaew. Sometimes I use cloves; sometimes I use dried cardamom pods. For this recipe, I use star anise which goes beautifully with the orange.

Be sure to use tart oranges for best results. You want to play the tartness of the fruit against the sweet syrup.