A few years ago, I discovered Thai iced tea and since then it’s my favorite drink to order whenever I go to any Asian restaurant that offers it.
There’s no doubt I’m a visual eater because I fell in love with the color, a sort of burnt amber that turns into this marvelous marbling swirl of wonder when you blend in the sweetened condensed milk. It’s such a unique color that I don’t think there’s any other food that replicates that look. Pantone should definitely make a color inspired by Thai tea.
So with my obsession over Thai tea, it’s not a big surprise that I decided one day to make it at home (those $4-$5 a pop at restaurants really adds up). The key has to be finding the Thai tea packets because even though the tea might be a basic black tea, the producers do something to it to give it that unique reddish color (people online point to food coloring) and a nice floral sweet aroma. Luckily in the San Francisco Bay Area, I found a tiny Thai market in the city’s Tenderloin district called Battambang Market where I found the Pantai brand of Thai tea (which the online community confirmed is the most popular brand used to make Thai iced tea at restaurants).
After enjoying Thai iced tea at home, one day I decided to take my obsession one step further and that’s how I came up with the layered Thai tea gelatin dessert. If you’re from Hawaii like me, you’ll recognize that this is like “Rainbow Jello” that every kid learns to make growing up and taking to picnics or the beach. Using the same layering method of Jello flavors and sweetened condensed milk, I created this Thai tea version, ending up with this edible Thai iced tea.
While it’s simple to make, the gelatin takes a lot of patience and time because to get that perfect layer, you have to make sure the gelatin sets before you do the next. And with five layers of Thai tea and four layers of sweetened condensed milk, that’s nine layers to make. I speed up the process (same technique I did when I made Rainbow Jello) by putting my glassware with the gelatin into the freezer. But even then, it takes a good 2.5 to 3 hours to complete it.
The final result, though, is a fun colorful treat that taste just like Thai iced tea with the mixing of the Thai tea and milk. One friend thought the color reminder her of Halloween so this could be a fun treat for an adult Halloween party, which is right around the corner. Enjoy!
Thai Tea Gelatin
Makes six servings
3/4 cup Thai tea leaves
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
7 packets gelatin
7 cups water
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a pot, remove from heat and add the Thai tea leaves and let set for at least 15 minutes. Then strain through sieve to remove tea leaves. (If you have empty tea bags, you can put the tea leaves into bags and drop them into the hot water, then remove the bags.)
Use an 8-inch square glass bakeware and make room in your freezer to lay the pan to quickly firm up each layer.
Now you’ll make five layers of Thai tea and four layers of the sweetened condensed milk. Follow the instructions below on how to make each layer. How I speed the process along is using the freezer to firm up the gelatin. Each layer takes about 20 to 30 minutes to firm up in the freezer. Always test the readiness of the last layer by touching it lightly. If it has a waxy texture, it’s ready (you can touch it without leaving fingerprints). I also suggest putting the cup of the next layer in the refrigerator about five minutes before you add it to the pan to ensure you’re not pouring warm liquid into your gelatin layers.
How to make the Thai tea layers:
- Boil one cup of the brewed Thai tea, add 2 teaspoon of sugar
- In a measuring cup, add a little bit of Thai tea, and then add a packet of gelatin. Use a mini whisk (or fork) to whisk the gelatin with the liquid to dissolve.
- Add the hot Thai tea to the measuring cup with gelatin and blend everything until the gelatin seems fully dissolved.
- Let cool before adding to the pan.
How to make the sweetened condensed milk layers:
- Divide the can of condensed milk into two parts. (I suggest making this in two batches to ensure the milk doesn’t harden as you wait to add them to the layers.)
- Bring water to a boil and in a measuring cup, add a little bit of water to one packet of gelatin. Use a mini whisk (or fork) to whisk the gelatin with the liquid to dissolve.
- Pour 3/4 cup of water into the gelatin mixture and blend until fully dissolve.
- Add the gelatin water to the half part of sweetened condensed milk and stir until fully blended.
- Split this mixture into two parts and use each for the first two layers of milk. (Tip: If your milk mixture gets thick from the gelatin, thin it out with a tablespoon of water before creating a layer.)
When creating your layers, start with the Thai tea layer on the bottom followed by the milk, then Thai tea, then milk and so on. (You’ll make a total of five layers of Thai tea and four layers of milk.) When you’ve completed all the layers (ending with the Thai tea on top), remove from freezer, cover with plastic wrap, and then leave in refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
When ready to serve, cut the gelatin into cubes, removing carefully from the pan and placing in either glass bowls or cups.
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