BookKids: A Literary Treat!

We’re SO excited to feature Austin author Christina Soontornvat as a guest blogger today! Christina’s upcoming middle grade novel, A Wish in the Dark, is set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world where food has an important role. As soon as we’re introduced to our hero, Pong, we also see his interesting connection to nearby hanging fruit. Hmmm.. *scratches chin* This book is so wonderful and we can’t wait for you to read it!


Anyway, Christina has been sharing some yummy recipes on social media lately that she will be making for her book party here at BookPeople on March 29th! Juuuuust in case you’re not able to attend, we wanted to share one with you so you can make it at home and not feel super left out! If you ARE attending, then enjoy this little sneak peek, ya foodies!

Easy to make easier to eatHi, my name is Christina Soontornvat, and I am the author of the children’s novel, A Wish in the Dark. This story is a twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables set in a fantasy world inspired by Thailand. Food is such an important part of Thai culture, so you can bet that food plays a big role in the book! 

Today I’ll be sharing a recipe for how to make one of my favorite Thai desserts. These coconut cubes are light and refreshing, perfect for a warm day or following a meal of spicy food. I am not a baker or a master chef, so I promise you that if I can make this, anyone can! This easy recipe is adapted from one of my favorite Thai chefs to follow online: Palin of The Hot Thai Kitchen

The recipe uses two common ingredients in Thai desserts: agar agar powder and pandan leaf. 

Agar Agar is similar to gelatin, but it’s vegan (made from seaweed!). Pandan is a tropical plant whose leaves have a wonderfully aromatic flavor that’s a little hard to describe. It’s particularly delicious when steeped in coconut milk. 

I made this dessert in a plain baking tin, but you could also use ice cube trays or other molds to make it look really fun! 

This dessert, plus other yummy Thai snacks and fruits will be on hand during our launch party for A WISH IN THE DARK on March 29th at 2pm at BookPeople. Come out and enjoy tasty treats and scrumptious stories all at once!



(I recommend shopping at an Asian grocery store for these items!) 

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups coconut water (find a brand that is pure coconut water, with no additives or preservatives)
  • About a cup of white sugar
  • pandan leaves (frozen is fine to use!)
  • 1 package agar agar powder
  • pinch of salt 
  1. Make the coconut water layer. Pour the coconut water into a saucepan and stir in 1 ½ tsp of  agar agar powder. Heat the liquid to a boil. As the pan warms, add ¼ cup of sugar and 3-5 pandan leaves (trimmed so they fit in the pot). Stir, making sure the agar agar is completely dissolved. Once the pan comes to a boil, reduce the heat to lowest setting. You don’t want it to simmer, but you don’t want it to cool or the agar agar will set. 
Making the coconut water layer
Making the coconut water layer
  1. Pour 1 cup of the coconut water mixture into a 8×8 baking dish or other mold. No need to grease or line the dish! Place it into the fridge to set. 
Pouring the liquid into the mold
Pouring the liquid into the mold
  1. Make the coconut milk layer. Pour the coconut milk into a different saucepan and stir in 1 ½ tsp of agar agar powder, about 6 tbsp of sugar, a pinch of salt, and 3-5 pandan leaves. Do the same thing here as you did with the coconut water mixture.
Making the coconut milk layer
Making the coconut milk layer
  1. After about 5 minutes the first layer should be set. Take it out of the fridge and gently pour on 1 cup of the coconut milk mixture, taking care not to disturb the first layer. Put in the fridge to set. 
  2. Repeat once more with each layer. The dessert sets fast, so this shouldn’t take long! 
  3. After about 20 minutes, when the whole dish is cooled down you can slice the dessert into little cubes and serve! 

About Christina Soontornvat

Christina Soontornvat  grew up in a small Texas town where she spent many childhood days behind the counter of her parents’ Thai restaurant with her nose in a book. She is the author of many books for young readers, including The Blunders, illustrated by Colin Jack. She now lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two children.

About A Wish in the Dark

A boy on the run. A girl determined to find him. A compelling fantasy looks at issues of privilege, protest, and justice.

All light in Chattana is created by one man — the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Thai-inspired fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat’s twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is a dazzling, fast-paced adventure that explores the difference between law and justice — and asks whether one child can shine a light in the dark.

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