Despite a common belief by many Westerners that vegetarianism is impossible to communicate in Thailand, and that fish sauce goes in everything, the Thai language has a word to indicate veganism that is universally understood. เจ translates in English to je, or jay, and means no animal products. The concept is so well understood, in fact, that for ten days a year the country celebrates a vegan diet with such a fervour that it's near impossible in a large city to find a venue without vegetarian options!
One of the best times in Thailand to try street foods is during this annual festival, tesagaan gin jee (เทศกาลกินเจ), in the autumn. Yellow flags are strung across tables and shophouses of participating vendors, indicating they have vegan friendly foods for sale. That's how I came to try these moreish fried sweet potato balls, a cheap and delicious vegan snack you can find sizzling in vats of oil half the size of your bathtub.
Not quite sweet, but also outside of savoury territory, these steaming nibbles are both easy to prepare and contain minimal ingredients. Just be sure you make them to order as they are rubbish leftovers.
Fried Sweet Potato Balls (Kanom Kai Nok Krata – ขนมไข่นกกระทา)
The most important thing to remember about this recipe is that these sweet potato snacks do not keep, but you can make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it in cling film for a day or two. These treats are swell on their own, but are also a great addition to a plate of Southern style food.
- 250 grams peeled sweet potato, cut into chunks
- 125 grams (1 cup) tapioca starch
- 25 grams (2 tablespoons) rice flour
- 30 grams (2 tablespoons) sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Steam the sweet potato for 15-20 minutes, until fork tender (or boil and drain). Once cooled, mash the sweet potato before kneading in the remaining starches for a few minutes with your hands to attain a soft and smooth, slightly sticky dough.
- Heat at least two inches of oil in a large saucepan or wok (I use 3 cups for my 12 inch wok) to medium low.
- Roll the dough into tablespoon size balls and fry in two batches until golden, agitating them frequently to ensure even cooking. Each batch will take 2-3 minutes.
- Author: Kip
- Serving: About 22 balls
- Cuisine: Thai street food