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Sankya Lapov
Pumpkin Coconut Custard



As this dessert is best prepared the day before and stored in the refrigerator, it has become a conveniently ideal dessert for special events such as wedding receptions and some religious festivals.   

In most Khmer restaurants, this dessert is available all year round. It is very popular not only amongst the Khmers, the Thai and the Laotian like it too. They call it ‘sangkhaya’.   

The similarity of the Khmer name ‘sankya’ to the Thai ‘sangkhaya’ indicates that both may have stemmed from ‘samkhya’ a sanskrit word for custard. This may suggest a common origin in the Khmer Empire’s Hindu past. 

 The high egg content in this recipe may have many health benefits. It is believed that the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and proteins in them are good for eyes, skin, hair and nails as well as having protective properties against breast cancer.  Despite previous fears, recent studies claim that eggs do not increase your bad cholesterol.






  Serves 4 - 6


Small pumpkin1
Large eggs / duck eggs 3
Palm sugar paste
2 2 Tbsp
White Granulated sugar 2 Tbsp
Coconut cream3 300 ml (10.5 fl oz).
Salt 0.5 tsp
Steamer – large enough to hold the pumpkin



1.  Preparing the pumpkin – First wash, pat dry the pumpkin and trim off any rough spots. With a sharp knife, cut a hexagonal (6 sides) or round shape around the stem of the pumpkin. Lift the stem up and through the opening, use a spoon to scoop out and discard seeds and membrane from inside the pumpkin.  Use a clean dry cloth to wipe out any bits left in the pumpkin cavity.

2.  Put about 10 cm/4 inch of water in the steamer. Bring to the boil over high heat.

3.  In a deep bowl, lightly beat the eggs using a fork while taking care not to create any air bubbles – this should take no longer than 30 seconds. Then add the palm sugar, granulated sugar and salt.  Use the fingers of one hand3 to dissolve and to thoroughly mix the sugar into the beaten eggs. This takes 3-4 minutes.  Then stir in the coconut cream and mix well.  Using a cheesecloth or fine metal sieve, strain the mixture to eliminate lumps. Pour the mixture into the pumpkin – leave 1 inch from the top. Then, in order to prevent it from cracking during the steaming, completely wrap the pumpkin with aluminium foil. Then use a skewer or tip of a knife to make a few holes where the opening is to let the steam out during cooking.

4.  Place the pumpkin on the steamer tray, putting the stem beside the pumpkin, reduce the heat to medium, cover and steam for  about 45 minutes or until cooked. To check if it is cooked through, insert a skewer into the centre of the pumpkin. The skewer should come out clean.  During cooking, remember to check the water level in the steamer half way through steaming to ensure that it won’t dry out and top it up as needed.

5.  When the sankya is cooked, remove from heat and allow to rest for 20 minutes or so. Then unwrap the foil, cut the pumpkin into wedges and serve warm.  However, this is best refrigerated overnight and served chilled , though some might prefer it warm.

1   If possible, choose a pumpkin that has a dark green skin with a nice round shape and no blemishes on the skin. The mixture in this recipe should be enough to fill a pumpkin with a diameter around 15-17 cm (6.5 inches) and should weigh between 600-800g.  


 2   Traditionally, the recipe calls for palm sugar paste as it is easier to dissolve than the solid palm sugar. You can use brown granulated (not caster) sugar if palm sugar is not available.

3   Wear a food glove / small plastic bag on the hand if you need to.

Note: If you don’t have a steamer, this can be cooked in a bain-marie in the oven at 180oC/350oF/Gas 4 or fan 160oC/300oF for 90 minutes or more depending on the size of the pumpkin. First line a deep bowl, slightly bigger than the foil wrapped pumpkin, with a double folded long strip of greaseproof paper, leaving both ends above the edge of the bowl.  This will make it easier to lift the pumpkin out of the bowl after it’s cooked.  Place the pumpkin in the bowl, then put the bowl in a large roasting tin and add 1.5 inches of boiling water to the tin. Remember to check during cooking and top it up with boiling water if required.   


I have been told that this can also be cooked in a microwave. It would take just 15–20 minutes only.  However, I haven’t tried this method yet …