“We like sweet things,” my guide said as the group stopped at a small maphrao kaew factory in Chiang Khan located in Thailand’s northeast province of Loei, “Because coconut is not sweet enough,” she added while laughing. Maphroe kaew is coconut strips cooked in melted sugar to create a deliciously sweet treat.
Lined up on a table were plastic bags filled with sugared coconut strips in hues of pastel pink, green and natural white. The grade of sugared coconut determined the cost. Higher the grade meant softer coconut and highest price (about Thai baht 150 for an ounce).
In the back of the factory was a small pyramid of tan coconuts waiting to be sliced in half and carefully gutted. I watched maphrao kaew being made and was impressed at how the workers carefully carved out the coconut meat so it looked like a flexible bowl. It was then given to another person who dipped it in water and shaved off any evidence of brown husk with the result being a stark white bowl.
Next, it moved to another person tasked at placing the coconut meat on a cutting board, laying it as flat as possible and shaving off thin layers with a sharp, hand-held tool. The thin layers of meat are either sliced into thin strips or wide sheets.
Slices and sheets were then placed in large mettle woks sitting atop burners and stirred with water and sugar. The sugar does not caramelize resulting in beautifully white slices of sugared coconut, or, food coloring is added to some resulting in the colorfully sweet delight.
After the shreds and sheets are cooled, they are bagged and ready to be enjoyed.
I purchased the highest grade (AA grade) coconut in sugar and it’s tender and light accompanied with a gentle sweet flavor.
Here’s a brief video showing the process of making maphrao kaew. Have you seen this made or have you tasted it?
Disclosure: I was a guest of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and this post has not been reviewed by the host. Opinions are my own and reflect my honest experience.