Whilst on a post-university holiday to Thailand in the summer of 2012, my sister and I decided to explore the ancient city of Ayuthayya, founded in 1350 by King U Thong in effort to escape an outbreak of smallpox in his province. Following several invasions and destruction at the hands of the Burmese during the 1700s all that remains of the once thriving Siamese city are its temples or Wat- which form the Ayuthayya Historical Park. (The Thai word for a temple is ‘Wat’)
After roaming around several Wats in the heat, and marvelling at the sheer volume and variations of beautifully finished Buddha sculptures that lined the walls of the temples, we decided to call it a day and head back to Bangkok. On the way back, we spotted this stall and excitedly asked our taxi driver to stop here so we could investigate what it had on offer.
The stall was filled with several bags containing nests of what resembled candyfloss but with a far more strand-like structure in different colours and flavours. JACKPOT! We had found an authentic Roti Sai Mai stall!
Roti Sai Mai – pronounced ‘loti sigh migh’ by the Thai- is a thai dessert or even a snack food consisting of a fluffy pile of spun sugar which you wrap up in, what seems to be, a rice pancake and eat in a similar fashion to an Arabic Shawarma or Mexican Burrito! The original Sai-Mai carries a rich toffee or caramel flavour from the use of palm sugar- far superior to the refined sugary taste of its western, machine made counterparts.
We only tried this flavour and another which was Pandan flavoured- Delicious, and very addictive if you have a sweet tooth, like me! ( Pandan is a flavouring derived from Pandanus Leaves. It’s used in several thai desserts and dishes and imparts a sweet perfumed scent that is like no other!)
My sister and I had sampled this a few days prior to our escapades in Ayuthayya and were amazed by the novelty of it all! I did some further reading and learnt of its historical origins at the time of the Portugese trading and missionary operations in Thailand during the 16th Century. They introduced egg yolks and flour- key ingredients in the manufacturing of the pancakes- to the Thais along with several other ingredients from their global operations in America and Sri Lanka such as tea, chillies, cinnamon, cloves, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, lettuce, cabbage, papaya, custard apples, guava, pineapples, pumpkin, peanuts and cashew nuts too! So that means globalisation is not such a new thing after all!!
Coming back to the main point–>Yes it is just sugar wrapped in a pancake so you may end up saying hello to your dentist more than you would like, if you’re not careful. But who cares about the dentist when you could be sinking your teeth into these delightful rolls of joy, grinning as you chew each slightly soft, slightly crunchy bite, and thinking how much better this tastes than the candyfloss you ate as a child!
Variations in Texture- 5/5
Novelty of Concept- 5/5
Simultaneously taking a bite out of history and experiencing sugary pancake-y euphoria ON THE ROADSIDE – off the scale!!