Everyone loves a Cinderella story. You know the rags to riches, root for the underdog type. While a wealthy countess seems an unlikely heroine, Marie Guimar’s fall from grace set the stage for one of the greatest comeback tales of the Ayutthaya period. Mix together equal parts aristocracy, political upheaval, and slavery. Add a dash of culinary prowess and a sprinkle of resilience. Simmer for years in the royal kitchen and you have the makings for the ultimate recipe for retribution – and in the case of Marie Guimar, Queen of Thai Dessert, revenge was best served sweet.
Born to Japanese-Portuguese parents in 1664, Marie Guimar grew up during the peak of ancient Ayutthaya. The kingdom glittered at the epicentre of the Eastern world, boasting one million residents by 1700 – more than London at that time.
King Narai hosted foreign diplomats in fairy-tale palaces, holy chants echoed through the halls of magnificent Ayutthaya temples, and merchants sailed the world over to trade the most exotic of wares. East met West, like golden threads weaving together the rich, multicultural tapestry of Ayutthaya history.
Marie Guimar lived a truly cosmopolitan life with her husband, Greek adventurer Constantine Phaulkon. Their affluence boomed as Phaulkon rose to Prime Minister in the royal court of King Narai. Marie was made countess by the French during Phaulkon’s ministership and had her own influence on Ayutthaya history with the introduction of her Portuguese-inspired Thai desserts.
Foreign dignitaries and Thai royals alike applauded her use of ingredients like eggs, refined sugar, and cassava starch, which had never been used in ancient Ayutthaya food before. Guimar’s egg yolk dessert recipes shone a propitious golden yellow, making sweets like Foi Thong and Thong Yip hugely popular across Siam.
However, the sweet life and prosperity of Marie Guimar quickly soured with the overthrow of King Narai and the assassination of Constantine Phaulkon during the Siamese Revolution of 1688. Widowed with nowhere to run, Guimar was turned over to usurper Phetracha and banished to a life of slavery in the new king’s royal kitchen.
Remember, that fall from grace? Well, Marie Guimar couldn’t have fallen much farther. For 15 years, the former countess toiled in the royal kitchen. She spent her days perfecting her culinary skills and focusing on her beloved recipes as she prayed for a miracle; it was this unwavering persistence and an innate knack for food that saw her prayers answered. In 1703, Phetracha passed away and Marie Guimar was finally free.
Most people in this position would have packed up and run as far away as humanly possible – not Guimar. Instead, she turned her former prison into an empire with a much-deserved promotion as the head of the royal kitchen. An iron chef with an iron will, Marie Guimar proved that with a pinch of passion, a splash of determination, and a whole lot of egg yolks, anything is possible. She has truly earned her place in Thai dessert history – and if that’s not a Cinderella story, we don’t know what is.
Marie Guimar truly redefined the Thai dessert game with the introduction of ingredients like eggs, egg yolks, refined sugar, and cassava starch. The vibrant yellow of her sweets still hold auspicious meaning in Thailand, representing prosperity and reminding the world of the riches of Ayutthaya’s history. Here’s a look at some of Guimar’s golden Thai desserts you can still sample today:
Foi thong: Known as fios de ovos in Portuguese, this Thai dessert is made with egg yolk and sugar. Long golden threads are spun into an artistic nest.
Khanom mo kaeng: Main ingredients for this Thai egg custard also include coconut milk, sugar, and shallots. Marie Guimar used tapioca or cassava starch instead of flour.
Thong muan: Traditionally made by Portuguese nuns, this long, rolled wafer is reminiscent of a French pirouette.
Thong yot: Another nod to Marie Guimar’s Portuguese heritage, this Thai dessert is also known as a gold egg-yolk drop.
Thong yip: Pick up a ‘pinched gold egg yolk’, and it is believed you can turn anything to gold.
Sangkaya: A thick Thai custard with eggs and coconut as the main ingredients.
Khanom phing: A small sweet cookie is another of Guimar’s egg yolk dessert recipes
What better way to understand life during the Ayutthaya period than to sample one (or all) of Countess Marie Guimar’s Thai desserts while strolling through the Ayutthaya historical park? Explore ancient Ayutthaya temples like Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, and Wat Ratchaburana; bask in the architectural glory of Bang Pa In Palace; or take a ride on a converted rice barge cruise through the waters of the Chao Phraya.
Discover your Ayutthaya adventure with TheAsia.com.