Aunty Sailom creates sweets for the gods

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Aunty Sailom offers us to taste her delicious Kanom Thian.
Aunty Sailom invites us to taste her delicious Kanom Thian.

During the Lunar New Year celebrations, Chinese families clean their house thoroughly so as to sweep away bad fortune and welcome good luck. They decorate their homes with red paper, signs, and other symbols of good fortune and long happiness. They make offerings, eat traditional foods, and visit festivals where loud firecrackers light up the night sky.

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In the week running up to the Chinese New Year, Naklua market was abuzz with shoppers of all nationalities, but most especially people of Chinese descent frantically buying food and sweets in preparation for January 24, the day when they pay homage to Chinese deities along with honouring their ancestors by making offerings of pork, chicken, fish and a variety of sweets. In Chinese belief, each item has a particular meaning and brings good luck.

Two of the most sought-after sweets for making the offerings are the Kanom Thian or sweet stuffed dough pyramids and Kanom Keng, coconut rice cake.

On January 22, the Pattaya Mail team visited one of the most respected and well-known sweet makers, Aunty Sailom Srinak at her home in Huay Yai.

As we walked into a huge shed-like area, we watched in awe as ten of her family members were busy creating pyramid shaped wrappings from banana leaves, cooking the ingredients for making the sweets and then filling and expertly hand wrapping them into banana leaf pyramids and cups, ready to be delivered to the market.

Aunty Sailom said, “During this period we make almost 50,000 dough pyramids and rice cakes. Our clients are sweet vendors who pre-order months in advance. To help fulfil the orders we recruit all our relatives living in the area. It’s fun and best of all, we get to see each other again.

Relatives busy stuffing and wrapping the sweet stuffed dough pyramids.
Relatives busy stuffing and wrapping the sweet stuffed dough pyramids.

“Vendors place their orders months ahead, because they don’t want to lose out on this very lucrative market during the Lunar New Year. We start to make the sweets one week before the actual day just to catch up with the orders. This year we made 35,000 pieces of stuffed dough pyramids and 10,000 pieces of coconut rice cake.

“This is a one-shot deal,” said Aunty Sailom with a smile, “because the biggest sales will be on the traditional ‘shopping day’ which falls on January 23. Every last dough pyramid and rice cake must be sold. One can still buy the sweets the next morning, but after that, as tradition has it, no one will buy the sweets anymore.”

The ‘chef’ ensures that sweets are cooked to perfection.
The ‘chef’ ensures that the sweets are cooked to perfection.

Aunty Sailom expects business to be brisk and hopes to sell all 45,000 of her sweets. “After all, it’s Chinese New Year, and my sweets are some of the most essential items placed on the tray of offerings, as the bearer prays to the deities asking to be bestowed with good luck and fortune in the Year of the Rat.”

Related story: Pattaya welcomes in Year of the Rat

Related story: Pattaya sees red during Chinese New Year

Part of the 10,000 coconut rice cakes ready to be packed and delivered.
Part of the 10,000 coconut rice cakes ready to be packed and delivered.
It’s a family affair. Aunty Sailom (centre) happily works with her kinfolk.
It’s a family affair. Aunty Sailom (centre) happily works with her kinfolk.