Give a Portuguese thong yip, a Thai traditional dessert, to taste and one might get a quizzing look. “Trouxas das caldas?” they’d probably ask. The same goes for foi thong, another Thai dessert. They’ll call it fios de ovos. These reactions are reflections of Portugal’s lengthy relationship with Thailand. Over 500 years of interaction is bound to have a cultural impact on both sides. For Thailand, amongst many things, Portugal greatly left a mark on the dessert scene.
The Thai-Portuguese began in the 15th century, when Portugal made contact to secure economic power and influence trade. It was in 1545 when Siam truly recognized the Portuguese as allies. For serving in in the Chiang Kran combat against Burma, they were allocated land in Ayutthaya by King Chairachathirat to settle and build houses and churches. This was followed by a period of mingling of two cultures. Marie Guimar de Pinha, a Siamese of Portuguese ancestry born in the Portuguese village in Ayutthaya, created foi thong.
The relationship was so strong that after the fall of Ayutthaya in 1760s, the Portuguese chose to follow Siam to the new capital. Here in Bangkok, they settled in two areas next to the Chao Phraya river: Kudi Jeen and Talat Noi. Their legacy continues on in many locations, including the Santa Cruz Church, the Holy Rosary Church, and most of all the Embassy of Portugal in the Creative District. In 1820, King Rama II granted land in Bangrak to build the first Portuguese Consulate, which has become the Embassy.