Samui Wining & Dining
That’s Sweet

There are some fabulous international desserts to be found in Samui’s top restaurants.

 

13Desserts are, I think, an integral part of dining out. And yet they represent just a small fraction of restaurant sales. And that’s a shame as a lot of hard work, skill and expense goes into making them. Not to mention the fact that they’re delicious and, for some of us, totally addictive. And if you are going to have a vice, that’s not a bad one to spend your money on.

Many sweet treats have their origins in a time before the great BC/AD switchover. However, in more modern times it would be the French culinary giants, Carême and Escoffier, who paved the way for ever more elaborate and tasty desserts. And in our lifetime the proliferation and relative ease of access to every conceivable ingredient has meant new creations popping up on a regular basis. Many of them are a variation on a theme taking a base recipe, like a pie, and filling it with exotic fruits, for instance. And chefs do love to experiment and put their own mark on things, for which I’m eternally grateful.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a wonderful array of desserts on Samui and I’ll share some of my favourite ones with you. I am rather partial to ‘tiramisu’ and many restaurants have it as a staple on their menu. And not just Italian places though they do tend to make the best ones. Places like Olivio, at Baan Haad Ngam Resort in Chaweng, and La Taverna, in the Green Mango area of Chaweng, are both excellent restaurants to sample it. Chef Luigi at Olivio also has a fantastic ‘warm chocolate cake’, as does Chef Stephen, at H Bistro at Hansar Resort in Bophut. On menus you’ll find it described variously as hot chocolate cake, molten chocolate cake, chocolate volcano or chocolate lava cake but basically they’re very similar. This dessert is often described as soufflé-like, cake-like, brownie-like, mousse-like, and pudding-like, and that is because it has all of those characteristics. Usually served with some vanilla ice-cream, it’s to die for

Another sweet but not heavy dessert I love is ‘lemon sabayon’. Chef Aziz, at Rocky’s Resort near Lamai, makes this with a frothy texture and zesty finish. It’s similar in style to an Italian zabaglione; however, sabayon is its French equivalent. Undoubtedly, the great French chefs of the 19th and early 20th centuries crafted amazing desserts and none more so than Georges Auguste Escoffier.

Whilst he was at London’s Savoy Hotel he created ‘cherries jubilee’ for the 50th-anniversary celebration of the reign of Queen Victoria, in 1887. The beloved monarch was known to adore cherries, so Escoffier elaborated on a long-held European tradition of preserving cherries with sugar and brandy, instead simmering the fresh fruit in syrup and then thickening the juices with arrowroot. He presented the cherries with the final flourish of a splash of liquor, showily ignited at the table. It became a staple of tableside cooking in good restaurants for more than half a century. And you can try it out on Samui at The Barge restaurant at Nora Bura Resort just outside of Chaweng.

Chom Dao restaurant at Bandara Resort in Bophut also has a take on a French influenced classic. Chef Bem’s ‘green chocolate mousse’ is a part of his spa cuisine menu and it packs in the flavours without putting on the pounds. Another good example of putting a spin on a well-known dessert is ‘coconut crème brûlée’. I guess it’s a Thai interpretation of another French classic and I’ve taken my time over it at Poppies restaurant, on the southern end of Chaweng Beach Road. Thailand does have some delightful sweets and almost every restaurant will have khao neuw ma-muang or ‘mango with sticky rice’. Some of the best I’ve had have been at Krua Bophut in Fisherman’s Village, Prasuthon restaurant at Nora Beach Resort in Chaweng and at Sabai restaurant at Impiana Resort in Chaweng Noi. The latter serves it with sesame seeds and caramel sauce that adds another dimension to the dish.

Staying with Thai desserts, there’s a traditional one called fak thong sang-ka-ya. Its ‘pumpkin custard made with coconut cream’ and is just delicious; The Barge also excels at this. Up on the north-east corner of the island Melati Resort has a Thai-style ‘pumpkin pie’ and at most restaurants with a Thai menu you’ll no doubt see bananas listed on the back page. Tom Yam Thai restaurant at Kandaburi Resort in Chaweng does a light dish of ‘banana fritters with ice cream’ and check out somewhere like The Farmer restaurant in Maenam for a brilliant ‘bananas in coconut milk’.

Also in Maenam, Mercure Buri Resort has a Swiss/Thai dessert that will get the pulse racing. Its ‘chocolate fondue with tropical fruits’ has to be a great way to finish off the night. ‘Cheesecake’ is another big hit with most people and the perception is that it’s an American creation. However, it was already a popular dish in ancient Greece before the Romans adopted it. Modern variations owe much to James Kraft who developed a soft cheese in 1912 that’s still used today. And you can find Thai-influenced cheesecake at Dining on the Hill restaurant at Six Senses Hideaway. They’ve focused on local produce and created a ‘mango cheesecake with rice pudding, pandanus ice cream and yoghurt shake’.

And the USA has given us some inspired desserts. ‘Chocolate brownies’ first appeared during the 1893 Columbian Exposition in the United States. A chef at the Palmer House Hotel created the confection after the owner, Bertha Palmer, requested a dessert for ladies attending the fair that would be smaller than a piece of cake and easily eaten from boxed lunches. Both Baitong Restaurant at Banana Fan Sea Resort and Chomtalay restaurant at Chaweng Regent Beach Resort serve them with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate syrup and cream cheese frosting with chocolate sauce respectively. American chef, Jeffrey Lord, of the acclaimed restaurant betelnut at Buri Rasa Resort introduced an ‘orange and lime pudding cake’ that has been on the betelnut menu for more than ten years. It probably has its origins with early settlers from England but this interpretation at betelnut is truly outstanding.

And what about the British, it’s certainly a nation that enjoys its desserts, particularly ‘apple pie’. Recipes for it go back to the time of Chaucer who published his interpretation of it in 1381. And whilst a number of places do it on Samui I like the Red Snapper restaurant version.

Being on holiday is a time to indulge and enjoy yourself and on Samui you can find just about every dessert imaginable. It would be a shame to miss out on one of life’s most inexpensive pleasures.

 


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