Here’s a very pleasant surprise, and something I hadn’t even heard of until I came to Bangkok: khanom bueang, a Thai dessert that consists of thin, crispy pancakes with a generous spread of a creamy Italian-meringue-like substance, along with other fillings (the one I tried had egg yolk threads, though coconut was also an option).
This was really, really good. It probably helped that they were made fresh at this booth in the food court in the Terminal 21 mall (the food courts here are so much better than the food courts back home, it’s ridiculous).
The pancakes were crispy and fresh, and were kind of like a cross between a crepe and a cookie. The creamy meringue worked perfectly with the crispy pancake, and though the egg yolk threads didn’t add much (they were just kind of chewy and tasteless), they didn’t detract, either.
I got an order of 10 of them, and I figured I’d eat a few right away and then save the rest for later. But of course they all wound up in my belly immediately, which I probably should have predicted. I’m not really a “save delicious food for later” kind of guy.
You know you’re in the right city when you can just randomly stumble across a place that’s this delicious.
How delicious, you ask? Extremely delicious.
I wasn’t even sure what I was ordering. I held up two fingers (my brother is here on this leg of the trip, so I’m ordering for two), just assuming I’d wind up with waffles. He asked “mango pancake?” I nodded, and we were off to the races.
Everything about this was shockingly good — from the fresh and fluffy pancake, to the satisfyingly tart sauce, to the chunks of absolutely perfect mango. The very sweet, creamy mango works great with the pancake, with the slightly sour sauce cutting the sweetness from the fruit.
I wish I knew what this place was called, but trust me — if you ever find yourself in Hong Kong, just wander around until you find it. It’s totally worth it.
I was trying to go to a bistro called Le Comptoir du Relais; it was completely full (it almost never occurs to me to make reservations, so this actually happens a lot). They do, however, have a small take-out window with sandwiches and pastries. I figured this was a pretty good opportunity to try a ham and butter sandwich, which is supposedly the second most popular sandwich in France.
(The first? Burgers. Everyone loves burgers.)
It was so good. The crispy (but not overly crunchy) exterior of the baguette combined with the pleasantly chewy interior makes this the perfect bread for a sandwich like this. Combined with the really good quality ham, a very generous slathering of salted butter, and a few slightly sweet cornichons to add some crunch and balance out the rich butter and the fatty ham, it was close to sandwich perfection. It was maybe the best ham sandwich I’ve ever had.
For dessert? The butter theme continued with a beurre-sucre crepe (butter and sugar). This is exactly what it sounds like — it’s a crepe, brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with sugar. It doesn’t sound like much, but the slightly buttery flavour combined with the slight crunch you get from the sugar works shockingly well on the freshly-made crepe.
Hey, you know the pancakes that you grew up loving? Yeah, they’re trash. The Austrians have perfected the pancake; we all need to get with the program and follow their lead.
There’s a restaurant here in Vienna called Heindls Schmarren & Palatschinkenkuchl that serves a dish called kaiserschmarren, which, I’m pretty sure, is the best version of pancakes that I’ve ever had.
It’s kind of like a traditional pancake, only more dense and rich, with an eggy, almost custard-like flavour. A big part of its appeal is the way they serve it; they cut it up and then put it in the oven just long enough for the edges to crisp up. The contrast between the lightly crispy exterior and the moist, cakey interior is the stuff dreams are made of. Sprinkled with icing sugar, topped with cooked raisins, and served with a tart cherry compote, it’s pretty much pancake perfection.