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.

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