Crema CaThailana (Video)

Crema Catalan, Thai style.

Spanish Custard with a Thai Twist

March 19 is Saint Joseph’s Day in Spain. The holiday is Spain’s version of Father’s Day and represents the way a father should care for his son.

Painting of Saint Joseph by El Greco
“Saint Joseph and the Christ Child” by El Greco
Map of Spain highlighting Catalonia.

The traditional dessert to celebrate the holiday is Crema Catalana, from the Catalonia region. 

Crema Catalana is a custard with a sugar crust, in the same dessert family as Crème brûlée.  To extend the metaphor, Crema Catalana would be the overlooked fraternal twin. 

The two desserts are essentially the same, but Crema Catalana overachieves while receiving little recognition.  The vanilla in crème brûlée is just fine.  However, Crema Catalana spikes the flavor profile with hints of lemon and cinnamon. 

Catalonia’s most iconic citizen is Salvador Dali.

What does Dali have to do with Crema Catalana? Or Spanish Father’s Day?

Dali was kind of a foodie. In addition, many art enthusiasts consider him the father of Surrealism.

Dali also said, “Everything alters me but nothing changes me.”

So, on this Saint Joseph’s Day, let’s honor Surrealism’s patriarch by giving Crema Catalana a Thai style alteration. 

Rather than using milk, this version is dairy free with coconut milk.  In addition, lemongrass replaces the traditional lemon zest.  Finally, palm sugar substitutes for regular white sugar. 

We’ve altered the dessert but haven’t changed it. 

Take a look at the video to see how everything comes together. 

Thai Crema Catalana

Serves 4

2 cups coconut milk

2 stalks lemongrass, chopped into 2 inch pieces and bruised with a cleaver

1 cinnamon stick

5 egg yolks

1/3 cup palm sugar

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Additional sugar for torching.

Red and green grapes.

Red and green grapes (Grapes are Spain’s national fruit)


Mangosteens (The mangosteen in Thailand’s national fruit)

Mint leaves.


Place the coconut milk, lemongrass and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover and let steep for 20 minutes or so.  Strain and return to the pan.

Vigorously whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn starch until light.

Heat the coconut milk mixture over low heat.  Add ½ cup of the mixture to the egg yolk mixture and whisk.  (The fancy term for this is tempering.)

Return the egg yolk/coconut mixture to the saucepan and whisk vigorously until thick, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and whisk in the tablespoon of Grand Marnier.

Push the custard through a strainer, if desired.  Straining is an optional step but guarantees a silky smooth custard.

Pour the custard into 4 ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.  You can make the custard up to three days in advance. 


Remove the ramekins from the refrigerator.  Pack about 1 tablespoon of palm sugar on the custard.  Use a blowtorch to caramelize the sugar to a deep golden brown.  Alternatively, place the ramekins under a broiler for about 2 minutes.  Let the sugar harden for a few minutes.

Place a few slices of red and green grapes on the caramel.  Top the grapes with a mangosteen section and place a mint sprig in the mangosteen. 

Serve immediately.

If you enjoy dessert any kind of dessert, please feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading!

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