While cooking, listen to this: Rock with You by Michael Jackson
This recipe is whole-heartedly dedicated to my favorite dairy free/gluten free lady, my cousin, Miki. She spent 17 days of her 3 month adventure in South East Asia with me exploring northern Vietnam, Laos and Chiang Mai, Thailand. Easily, one of my favorite parts of the world, I was doubly as excited about Southeast Asia because Miki could eat practically everything there. Rice noodles, coconut milk - these dairy and gluten alternatives were perfect! We ate so many bowls of pho I lost count, and guzzled what can only be considered the world's best smoothies, but the treat that really took the cake (coconut cake, that is) was the Khao Nom Kok.
The second country on our trip, Laos, was truly an incredible place. An often forgotten sliver of land between Thailand and Vietnam, Laos has a heart breaking history of being pulled and tugged at by its communist neighbors and the U.S. You can read all about my time in Southeast Asia here - and if you're planning a trip please comment below! I'd love to make recommendations.
Anyway, back to the Khao Nom Kok. We spent a couple of nights in Luang Prebang, the capitol of Laos. LP (as the cool backpackers call it) is known for its insane night markets, filled to the brim with crafts and elephant pants galore. Among the hubbub of the market, you'll find a handful of vendors hunched over large steel pans covered in half-moon dips, making these delectable treats. They pour the batter directly into the pans, scoop them up fresh and serve them in banana leaves. For a couple thousand kip (aka 50 cents - inflation is real in SE Asia!) you can buy half a dozen cakes and dig in while dodging vendors and other tourists in the night market. Miki was obsessed - I'm pretty sure we ordered them both nights we were in LP (and maybe once again in Thailand, as they make them there as well).
These cakes are absolutely fantastic and super easy to make, once you scour Amazon long enough to find the right pan (guilty!). I ended up buying some Scandanavian pancake pan, but it does the trick, I promise. Lessons we learned from making this - keep your heat LOW and your expectations high. Make sure you dust with powdered sugar, and when in doubt replace banana leaves with whatever a dying (ahem, 'drying' according to Rina) bunch of flowers leaves behind.
If you make these, PLEASE let us know! I'm dying to know if you go coconuts.
Khao Nom Kok (Lao Coconut Cakes)
Cook Time: 10-15m
Source: Laos (with a bit of guidance from this blog)
Special Equipment: a donut pan, like this one
⅔ cup rice flour
¾ Tablespoon corn starch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups coconut cream*
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup finely-grated coconut
½ Tablespoon water
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Make the batter: start by mixing the dry ingredients, then add the wet ingredients while stirring. If you're finding your batter is super thick, feel free to add a splash more water.
Heat your pan over low-medium heat: trust me, you want to keep the heat this low, otherwise the outsides will cook too fast and you won't be able to stack the cakes. Grease the pan with cooking spray.
Pour in the batter: let each cake cook for about 5-8 minutes. Check if they're done by dabbing gently with a fork. If a lot of batter oozes out, they're not done yet. Once the cakes are firm, find to cake of equal firmness and flip one on top of the other, with the flat edges meeting, so you have a round ball. It's okay if some batter seeps out when you flip them, you can clean those up with a spoon or knife.
To serve: sprinkle with powder sugar and garnish with optional banana leaves. These cakes are best served hot, but will keep an in airtight container for a couple of days. I highly recommend reheating before eating leftovers.
* If you also have no idea what this is, I used the thick creamy stuff from the top of a can of coconut milk. It worked beautifully.