Thai Scented Candle (Tian Op เทียนอบ) and How to Use It to Perfume Food

thai candle เทียนอบ
There’s something melancholic — almost mournful — about the scent of this traditional Thai dessert candle which I can’t identify. That’s a bit ironic considering how the candle is used exclusively to perfume food, primarily sweets and dessert ingredients. Could the culprit be its main ingredient, frankincense, used in many parts of the world in burial rituals? Could it be that just one whiff of it and I’m transported to the home I grew up in — the one that was recently demolished? Or could it have something to do with the fact that this is a candle whose sole purpose in life is to be burned ever so briefly then snuffed out? I don’t really know.

I have alluded to this horseshoe-shaped candle in an earlier post on Khanom Kleeb Lamduan – Thai Shortbread Cookies and how it’s used not as a source of light but to perfume food with its smoke. You put whatever it is you want to perfume (mostly desserts or the flour used to make desserts) in a glass jar, place a small ceramic bowl in the jar along with the food, light the candle on both ends, place the candle in the ceramic bowl, and place the lid on the jar. With no oxygen, the candle will go out on its own in just a matter of seconds. It then releases smoke — lots of smoke — that gets trapped inside the jar and imparts the scent of frankincense, ylang ylang, patchouli, and mace oil to the food.

Watch me perfume some pecan sandies. (A short film noir — really noir.)

Perfuming time varies from food to food and depends on each person’s taste. It could be anywhere from 10-15 minutes to overnight. As you might have guessed: the longer the perfuming time, the stronger the scent. However, based on my experience, the scent doesn’t get any stronger after 10-12 hours of perfuming, so it’s pointless to leave the food in the jar longer than that.

The candle can be reused multiple times until there isn’t enough wax on it. Be sure to trim off the part of the wick that is blackened from the previous use. This is to prevent the black sediments from tainting the food. Unused candles should be kept in an airtight container to keep the scent from dissipating too soon.

If you can’t find these Thai scented dessert candles (also referred to as ‘Thai aromatic candles’ or ‘Thai fragrant candles’), use any candles that are deemed safe to use with edibles. Ones that carry the scent of frankincense or ylang ylang give off a smell closest to that generated by this type of candle.

16 Responses to Thai Scented Candle (Tian Op เทียนอบ) and How to Use It to Perfume Food

  1. diva April 28, 2011 at 5:06 am #

    I have never seen anything like this before or eaten food (I think) that’s been perfumed by a candle. How extraordinary! And I’m thinking cookies scented with ylang ylang must be so fragrant and delicious x

  2. Tangled Noodle April 28, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    No extract or flavoring, sprinkle or frosting could possibly be more elegant or unique than perfuming food with a Thai scented dessert candle. I must try this!

  3. shaz April 28, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    Wow, great post Leela. I’d heard of this but never seen it “in action” until now, thanks to the vid 🙂 Have to search for the candle, hope I find one.

  4. geniuswaitress April 28, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    I wanted to bookmark this page, but I don’t seem to be able to.

  5. Leela April 28, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

    geniuswaitress – Hmmm. I can’t think of any reason why. I tried bookmarking it on 4 different browsers and it worked fine for me. Does this happen to other sites or pages on your end? Could this be a browser issue?

    Anyone else have this issue with this particular page?

  6. Bob del Grosso April 28, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    This is the kind of stuff that Adria and other Modernist chefs do. So cool to see from where they got the idea. Brava.

  7. Karen Chan April 29, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    This is so interesting!! Thanks for sharing– o and congrats on the saveur nomination– voting and rooting for ya 🙂

  8. Leela April 30, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    Karen – Thank you!

  9. dp April 30, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    Congratulations on your nomination! How exciting! And good luck!

  10. Leela April 30, 2011 at 3:26 am #

    Darlene – Thanks! 🙂

  11. Sagacious April 23, 2012 at 3:08 am #

    How did I miss this post. Thanks so much for sharing, I am now on a mission to find this candle and try some smoking. You have me inspired.

  12. delizia September 22, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    hello!! très intéressée par ces bougies thaï, mais IMPOSSIBLE en trouver en france?
    comment en trouver? où?
    merci pour votre réponse


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