In Australia, some local Thai restaurants serve mango sticky rice and scoops of coconut ice cream. But Thailand is a nation of sweet-tooths that snack on countless desserts.
In Bangkok's market, steamed jellies layered with jasmine and pandan are displayed on palm leaves, and mini coconut pancakes are cooked over charcoal in poffertjes-like pans and foi thong (egg-yolk threads boiled in sugar syrup) symbolise prosperity. The latter is the inspiration behind Laantaan, a Thai bakery in Melbourne that, until COVID-19, only supplied restaurants.
Mary Megally and Tan Hansapinyo take pride in the originality of their desserts, which incorporate the sweetened egg-yolk threads.
"It's like modern mixed with the old culture," says Mary. "Foi thong very old traditional dessert, so I tried to mix with the cake and bread. It worked and people like it. Our customers say, 'I've never seen this before in Melbourne'."
But Laantaan had only been operating for about six months before the Victorian restaurant lockdown was implemented on 23 March.
The restaurant lockdown is not the first hurdle Mary has faced – she quit a commercial cookery and patisserie job to study a Master of Supply Chain Management in the hopes of landing a better income. When she graduated, she couldn't find work for two years and turned to cheffing at suburban Thai restaurants before launching Laantaan. The plan was to supply restaurants, but then coronavirus called for a now-ubiquitous pivot.
"When the COVID-19 start, we had to sort the problem. We had to find a solution because there was no income at all after the restaurants closed," says Mary.
The pair searched for Thai grocers to distribute their baked goods. Eventually, they began stocking buttermilk buns and thin crepes rolled around sweetened cream and egg yolk threads at Talad Thai in Abbotsford. Still, a single grocer wasn't enough to live off, so they turned to Facebook and Instagram.
"First of all, no people follow, only five people. Then after that, we tried to advertise on our packaging that we have Instagram and you can follow us," says Mary.
"We didn't expect too many people will follow, but it's been unbelievable. Now I have a marketing team and social media team with us."
Laantaan's first social media post on 22 April shows a mandarin-tinged buttermilk bun, powdered with icing sugar and oozing salted egg yolk. Initially, Laantaan's customers were Thai, but since word spread on Instagram, that's shifted to 60 per cent Chinese customers and 35 per cent Australian.
"We didn't expect too many people will follow, but it's been unbelievable."
Without giving away too much, Mary explains that she mixes two supremely soft, speciality flours to make the buns, one from Thailand and another from Japan. They're available in original milk, Thai milk tea, egg yolk, ube purple potato and green tea. Laantaan's social media accounts promote specials such as Thai chilli jam and pork floss.
Mary says customers can expect more products and flavours soon. As restaurants reopen, Laantaan plans to provide them with Thai baked goods around town once again, but Melbourne-wide delivery will continue.
"We are the only one (like this) in Melbourne. If you like something Thai, you can try our product because our ingredient is different from any other buns or bread. The feeling is completely different," says Mary.