Tub tim krob is easy to make and tastes just as good at home as on a Phuket beach.

From Phang Nga Bay to Ko Phi Phi, at luxury oceanfront resorts and unassuming casual beachside shacks, you can spot happy diners slurping Thailand’s version of air conditioning in a bowl.

So just exactly what is this meal-ender that can so easily elicit grins in the Land of Smiles? It’s tub tim krob, an unexpected icy treat made with water chestnuts, tapioca flour, and coconut milk.

The exact origins of the dessert are unknown according to Narong Pakdee, sous chef at Six Senses Samui, a luxury villa property inspired by a Thai fishing village and overlooking views of the Gulf of Thailand. “It was founded during the time of King Rama 5 where it was created for the Royal family, and it became popular.” And still is.

Part of the allure of tub tim krob (which has several alternate spellings including tub tim grob and tab tim grop) lies in the bright red hue inspired by its name. “Tub tim means ruby in English, hence the dish’s red or pink color,” Pakdee says. “However nowadays some people might adapt or change the colors to make the dish more modern.”

Trisara Resort, whose dining concept Pru is Phuket’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, serves the traditional red version at Seafood and The Deck, both of which tout sweeping views of the Andaman Sea. At Baan Suriyasai, a Royal Thai cuisine-focused restaurant in Bangkok housed in a Victorian building dating back to the early 1900s, butterfly pea flowers are used for a stunning blue version.

No matter the hue, it’s obtained by soaking chopped fresh or canned water chestnuts in water and food coloring, after which they are coated in tapioca flour and boiled to give them a translucent sheen.

They are strained and quickly chilled in an ice bath, served in a bowl with pebble or cube ice, and topped with coconut milk or ice cream and simple syrup, which can also be flavored with rose petals, orange blossoms, or jasmine flowers for a heady floral aroma.

At Six Senses Yao Noi in Phuket, staff serves tub tim krob with pumpkin custard and edible flowers; the aforementioned Baan Suriyasai eschews coconut milk for a small pitcher of condensed milk poured tableside.

Tub tim krob can easily stand in for ice cream, sorbet, or custard at summer gatherings; the cold crunch is wildly addictive and the wow factor presentation is probably like nothing else your guests have even seen.

“It’s refreshing and not too complicated to make,” Pakdee notes. Prepare the water chestnuts in advance and keep them in the fridge until ready to serve, then set out a bowl of ice, pitchers of coconut or condensed milk (or tubs of ice cream), flavored syrups, and mango or papaya cut in strips and let guests serve themselves. In between spoonfuls you can work on the details for that beach vacation to Southeast Asia.

Adapted from Six Senses Samui

Makes: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 ounce can whole water chestnuts, drained
  • ½ cup tapioca flour
  • 1-2 drops red food coloring (more if you desire a more intense color)
  • ½ cup rich simple syrup (2:1 ratio of sugar to water, boiled to dissolve sugar then cooled)
  • 4 scoops coconut ice cream (can substitute coconut milk or cream)
  • Crushed ice cubes

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Cut the water chestnuts into large chunks, then mix with food coloring and enough water to cover chestnuts. Let soak briefly to dye.
  2. Drain and coat in tapioca flour. Shake off excess.
  3. Place in a pot of boiling water for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. When translucent, remove from the water using a slotted spoon and place into a bowl filled with ice and water.
  5. Once the tapioca coating sets into a gel, strain and spoon water chestnuts into 4 bowls.
  6. Top with a scoop of coconut ice cream (or coconut milk or cream) and a few spoonfuls of syrup to taste.
  7. Add crushed ice and serve immediately.