Layered Dessert | Khanom Chan | ขนมชั้น

I had khanom chan for the first time several years ago when the boyfriend and I were visiting Thai Town in L.A.  We had stepped into a small convenience-type store filled to the brim with Thai desserts and I remember being mesmerized by how many unusual-looking Thai confections there were…. so many more than just mango sticky rice and fried bananas!

Before I could compose myself and start looking around, the boyfriend was already hard at work filling a basket full of desserts from his childhood like kleep lam duan flower cookies, kanom krok coconut pudding, and melt-in-your-mouth cotton candy rolls called roti sai mai

Needless to say, khanom chan was one of the many desserts we brought home that day.  And I fell in love with it the instant its sweet two-toned layers touched my tongue.  Both the white and green layers are made with coconut milk infused with the scent of jasmine, but the green layer has the additional flavor of pandan.  Pandan is a grass-like plant that’s apparently pretty common in Southeast Asian cuisine and has a mild, pleasant, sort of earthy flavor. 

Layered Dessert | Khanom Chan | ขนมชั้น

To extract all of the flavor from the pandan leaves, you cut them up into little pieces, liquify them in a blender with some water, and then strain this pulp to get the juice.  The juice is then added to one half of the khanom chan batter to give it the characteristic green color and fragrant pandan flavor.  

To make khanom chan, you scoop a few spoonfuls of the green pandan-infused batter into a shallow dish and let it steam until it’s nice and firm.  Then you pour a little bit of the white batter on top and let it steam.  You repeat this process with alternating batters until you have nine layers.  I’ve heard that the nine layers are supposed to have something to do with happiness, but I can tell you from experience, they certainly have a lot to do with patience…

Layered Dessert | Khanom Chan | ขนมชั้นAfter your nine layers are steamed and cooled comes the excruciating moment of truth when you remove your dessert from the mold.  If you didn’t let a layer cook long enough, it may have wept into the next layer and ruined your meticulously-made dessert.  Luckily, with this recipe I didn’t encounter that problem, but I may have, uh, had a slight issue with making my layers even… 

The boyfriend grew up eating khanom chan by peeling each individual layer off and enjoying them one by one.  That way, you really get to savour each bite of this fragrant coconut- and pandan-infused treat.  It’s a delightful dessert that’s definitely worth the time it takes to make.  Now I just have to work on making all of those other Thai desserts found so easily in Thai Town.

Layered Dessert | Khanom Chan | ขนมชั้น

 

Layered Dessert | Khanom Chan | ขนมชั้น

Makes 2 servings

Layered Dessert | Khanom Chan | ขนมชั้น

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. To make pandan juice, cut washed pandan leaves into 1/2" segments. Combine 1/2 cup of these leaves with 1/4 cup of water in a blender and blend until it forms a paste. Strain the paste through a mesh strainer until you have extracted all of the juice. You should have ~1/4 cup pandan juice which will be used later in the recipe.
  2. Combine the water, jasmine extract, sugar, and coconut milk in a saucepan and heat over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Transfer to a bowl and add the tapioca flour and rice flour. Mix well until all lumps are incorporated and the batter is perfectly smooth.
  3. Divide the batter into halves. Leave one half plain. To the other half, add the 1/4 cup pandan juice you made earlier. You'll also need to add 2 tablespoons tapioca flour and 1 tablespoon rice flour to counteract this increased liquid so that the pandan layer sets as well as the plain coconut one does.
  4. Place a 4" x 4" container in a steamer. Spoon 4 tablespoons of the pandan batter into the container and let steam for 10-15 minutes until no liquid remains on top of the layer. Next add 4 tablespoons of the plain coconut batter on top and steam until done. Repeat this process until you have 9 layers (the top and bottom layers should be pandan).
  5. Let the container cool to room temperature and then cut into a square. To get a clean cut, it helps to put the entire container in the fridge to cool for a while.

Recipe modified from Kanom-Kanom.com

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{ 16 comments… add one }

  • Weng August 20, 2011, 11:28 am

    Pandan leaves give such a wonderful aroma to food. Where I grew up, we just use put on leaf with plain white rice while cooking. I tried growing my own pandan here in Rome from seeds but failed. I wish I can have access to these wonderful leaves. Happy to discover your blog.

    Reply
  • Sana August 20, 2011, 5:55 pm

    Your ขนมชั้น look really perfect!! I love this wonderful thai Layered Dessert.

    Reply
  • Shumaila August 21, 2011, 12:39 am

    Such a perfectly layered dessert!

    Reply
  • tandteacake August 21, 2011, 4:10 pm

    I have never heard of pandan leaves before, so thank you for the insight. I think I have to check whether I can find them at my ‘asian’ supermarket of choice. :)
    Tobias
    http://tandteacake.blogspot.com

    Reply
  • Rachel August 22, 2011, 10:01 pm

    Weng – I’ll have to try adding pandan to rice while it cooks, I can imagine it would be delicious! Forgive my ignorance, are there any Asian markets in Rome? I found these pandan leaves frozen at my local Asian market, so perhaps there’s hope for you too!
    Thanks Sana and Shumaila for the sweet notes! And best of luck on your search Tobias!

    Reply
  • foodingdo August 24, 2011, 8:39 am

    Great recipe and yummy pictures, Would you like to submit your food pics/links on our site. Cheers.

    Reply
  • Mark August 25, 2011, 10:21 am

    Very impressive. Great presentation too. I can smell the jasmine as I type. Thanks for the wonderful work.

    Reply
  • Sana September 27, 2011, 1:51 am

    What a nice dessert. Unfortanetly we do not have pandan leaves here in the Netherlands. To bad.

    Reply
  • Sana September 29, 2011, 1:07 pm

    I found the pandan leaves in the Thai Supermarket.
    Instead of yasmine essence ( I could not find that) I used rosewater. It was a delicious dessert en will made defenitly again (meanwhile looking for yasmine essence)

    Reply
  • Regina December 26, 2011, 1:22 am

    i really like that dessert but in this one i did not like the combination of yasmine and pandan its just too much.

    Reply
  • Rachel December 28, 2011, 8:22 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Regina. All of the recipes I’ve found for this dessert have both pandan and jasmine flavors, but you’re right, if you add too much jasmine, it can be overwhelming.
    I’ve seen a few recipes that say to soak your water with jasmine flowers overnight before using it. I haven’t tried this, but it may be less potent than using jasmine essence. I generally just use a tiny drop of the essence and taste the water before using to make sure it’s not too strong.

    Reply
  • Ming January 19, 2012, 2:23 pm

    You’re totally talking about Banh Kanom Thai, aren’t you?
    I’ve been dying to figure out the precise recipe for their taro panchi [I KNOW YOU KNOW exactly what I'm talking about! They're addicting!]. Have you played with it yet?

    Reply
  • Rachel January 21, 2012, 11:38 am

    Yep, the boyfriend and I love Bhan Kanom Thai :) We actually haven’t tried their taro panchi yet, but now I’m looking forward to trying it out the next time we’re down there!

    Reply
  • Rachel October 14, 2013, 10:42 am

    what flower did you use to finnish this in the photo? thanks Rach

    Reply
    • Rachel October 14, 2013, 3:14 pm

      Hi Rach, I used a star jasmine flower perched on top of pandan leaves for this photo… Since it’s not an edible flower, I wouldn’t recommend serving it this way to guests, but it makes a pretty presentation for photos.

  • Piyee November 20, 2013, 10:17 am

    Hi Rachel,
    I was so happy when I found this recipe. Years ago in Malaysia I ate something like this, but it also had layers of cake in it. I am not sure what it’s called.

    :)

    Reply

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