Here’s one for your homies who just can’t get enough of Thai food.
Are you the type that, after polishing off a massive Thai feast and considering what you want for dessert, you just want more Thai food? We understand. The multifaceted flavors of Thailand’s famed dishes can almost feel addictive. When you want a somtam, or a tom yum, or a larb, nothing else will quite hit the spot.
It’s for these Thai food superfans — as well as general foodies and tourists — that Saravut Kurupintsiri quit his job at an ad agency to start making a new line of candy. The result: Minidish, a line of carefully crafted sweets that mimic the flavors of Thai foods. So far, he’s created four flavors: gang keow wan (green curry), ga-prao (spicy basil), tom yum, and larb.
A spoiler and a PSA in one: All of them are spicy, and none contain meat.
We were intrigued. How could a tiny hard candy mimic the spicy, sour, rich, herbal, and generally huge flavors of Thai dishes while still tasting anything like candy? And a sweetened green curry? Not sure about that.
Recently, we tried all but the larb flavor and were so fascinated by these candies that we reached out to Saravut to find out what drove him to make these in the first place.
He told Coconuts Bangkok, “The initial idea came a long time ago when I was an exchange student going to the US. I wanted my new American friends and family to taste Thai food, but I didn’t know how to cook. I thought it would be great if there was small, easy, and ready-to-eat Thai food I could bring with me.”
The admitted candy lover revisited the idea recently, thinking “What if I shrink Thai food into the smallest form that people can carry around. What would it be? How about hard candy? Mini size plus Thai dishes plus hard candy equals Minidish candy!”
He decided to move forward with prototypes and contacted nearly a dozen candymakers near Bangkok. Only one replied. And, according to Saravut, the sample they came back with sucked.
“So I said eff it. I’ll do it myself. This might sound sketchy, but I learned how to make candy from Youtube and the Internet,” said Saravut. Our kinda guy!
He set up a lab in his house and ordered food industry flavorings. “The process was challenging. I tested the flavors with my friends and family multiple times. I collected their feedback and made adjustments. I must have thrown away 50 or 60 kilos of sugar in a year-long trial-and-error to get where I am at today.”
Here are the results of our Coconuts office taste test of three out of four flavors from the Minidish line:
Ga-prao (spicy basil): It has almost no smell, and the green hard candy only tastes sweet when you first pop it in your mouth. The spiciness hits you next and is a medium on the hot scale, getting spicier the longer you suck. The basil notes hit after that. At the very inner layer, the salt comes through, giving it a sophisticated finish — same idea as a salted caramel candy, you know? While we can’t say it tastes exactly like the krapow we know and love, it’s pretty good.
Gang Keow Wan (green curry): This one also has no smell, but the green curry flavor is there as soon as you pop it in your mouth — an unmistakable rich coconut milk mixed with the moorishness of fish sauce before the curry flavor reveals itself. The sweetness arrives next and, somehow, it just works. It doesn’t taste weird at all. Again, not an exact replica of green curry, but damn tasty.
Tom Yum: Of the three, the tom yum is both the most full-on and spot-on. It smells strongly of the spicy, creamy soup. The citrus/kaffir lime flavor hits immediately, followed by spice — this one is pretty dang spicy — and then the creaminess makes itself known before lemongrass and galangal have their moments, creating a pretty decent, pocket-sized rendition of one of our favorite dishes.
Minidish candies are still in their pre-launch phase after first being made available last month through a pop-up shop at Terminal 21, which Saravut used to gauge customer reaction. Based on feedback, he plans to make minor adjustments before an official launch, which is likely happening in November or December.