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Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
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Bai Damneub Sankya
Coconut Custard and Sticky Rice



I like the simplicity of this dessert. The coconut custard takes less than 10 minutes to prepare; and if you cook the sticky rice using rice-cooker like I do, it could not be easier.  The result is marvellous - light and delicious which is an ideal dessert to have after a big heavy meal.

The use of coconut cream in this dish is also suitable for people with lactose intolerance – those who cannot have milk or cream. Besides, it is believed that, although it contains saturated fat, coconut promotes weight loss. Check it out!

Traditionally, we use a square tin/dish to cook this dessert. Then cut it into little squares to serve.

In Cambodia, this dessert may have been inspired by the ‘crème brûlée’ (without the caramelised sugar on top) brought to Cambodia by the French more than a hundred years ago during the colonial time.  Whether the dessert originated in France or in England no-one is certain. Perhaps this uncertainty stems from the fact that a French chef, François Massialot, in his 1691 cookbook called the same recipe  "crème anglaise" -though, as you know, the ‘crème anglaise’ we see today is slightly different.




Serves 4 - 6

Large eggs / duck eggs 4
Palm sugar paste150g/2 oz
White Granulated sugar 50g/2 oz
Coconut cream 400 ml/14.5 fl oz
Salt 0.5 tsp

Sticky/Glutinous Rice:
Sticky rice 2 cups
Water 2 cups
Salt ½ tsp  -  see 'How to Cook Sticky Rice'

Square Pyrex dish
  18cm/7 inch or
Round Pyrex dish  20 cm/8 inch or
Ramekins 4 – 6 depending on the size
A steamer or Large roasting tin 1


1.  Preheat the oven to 150oC/300oF/Gas 2 or 130oC/250oF for fan oven. Boil a kettle of water.

2.  In a deep bowl, add eggs, palm sugar and granulated sugar and beat them together using a ball/balloon whisk for about 30 seconds while taking care not to create any air bubbles. Then stir the mixture until the sugar completely dissolves. Add the coconut cream and salt and stir well.  Use a cheesecloth or fine sieve to strain the mixture to eliminate lumps. Pour the strained mixture into the baking dish or the ramekins.

3.  Put about 6 cm/2.5 inch of water in the steamer. Bring to the boil over high heat

4.  Place the dish or ramekins in a steamer and cook for 45-50 minutes or until cooked through. It may cook quicker if using ramekins. Make sure to check the water half way through and top it up if needed.
Alternatively if you don’t have a steamer, put the dish or the ramekins in a large roasting tin and pour enough boiling water to come halfway up their sides (this is called bain-marie). Place the bain-marie on the centre shelf of the oven and bake for 40-45 minutes for the ramekins, or for 55-60 minutes for the big dish – or until the sankya is cooked through. Check if it is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre of the ramekin or baking dish. The skewer should come out clean.

5.  When the sankya is cooked, remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature for 10 minutes or so before serving. You can serve it warm or chilled on its own or with sticky rice.

1   There are two types of palm sugar – the rock palm sugar and the pasty one. The latter is easier to dissolve. Brown granulated (not caster) sugar can be used if palm sugar is not available.

I sometimes turn this into a French dessert called ‘clafoutis’ by just arranging pitted cherries in the dish, pouring the custard in and baking as above. Of course, you won’t need sticky rice for this dessert.