My mom found a packet of basil seeds and decided to challenge me to figure out what to do with them. After some research, I found that the primary use was in a drink called “nam manglak” and that the little seeds would poof up into what seemed rather like tapioca pearls or frog eggs.
Nam Manglak was the most common recipe with ingredients I could actually obtain. Apparently, the little seeds make drinks in several Southeast Asian countries and their neighbors, but the Indian one I read involved ingredients I’d never heard of!
In fact, as you can see from the picture, the little black dots from the seed’s hull make them look eerily like frog eggs. They’re awfully fun to nibble on and will poof into small chewy spheres. It seems to take them about 30 minutes to completely soak up all of the water and poof completely, but they start poofing after just a few seconds. Personally, I call them “frogalicious”!
This is one recipe where I’m honestly not trying for authenticity. I have no real idea of how this drink is really supposed to taste. What I can tell you is that what I’ve written below tastes quite good and the drink is very fun to make. A straw is essential to maximize the fun. And generally, I find that I’m happiest mixing up an italian soda and adding a couple of tablespoons of seeds.
Here’s one set of drinks my husband and I had today with lunch. Mine is a mix of chocolate and caramel sugar-free syrups, club soda and half & half with basil seeds. His is a mix of raspberry syrup, tonic and still water, plus a splash of evaporated milk and basil seeds.
I’ve come up with a lot of variations on the theme, some of which I’ve listed below. Keep in mind that 2 tablespoons of seeds will make at least 500 ml of basil seed spheres. It’s a cheap drink: we found that 69c would buy a large enough packet to make more than a dozen drinks’ worth.
I definitely recommend these fun little seeds as a fun summer drink or even a Halloween creepy drink (or prop).
Nam Manglak – Thai Basil Seed Drink [printable recipe]
Adapted from various sites
- 2 tbsp basil seeds
- 2 tbsp sugar or vanilla sugar
- 500 ml hot water
Add a Mix-in or Two:
- grenadine or other flavored syrups, such as chocolate, strawberry, almond, hazelnut, caramel, etc.
- cream or sweetened condensed, evaporated or coconut milk
Top off with:
- tonic or club soda (aka seltzer water or soda water or sparkling water)
- iced tea
Make the basil base:
Combine sugar and honey with hot water, stirring to dissolve. Add seeds, stirring in well so all of the seeds are soaked. Chill for a few hours until cold.
Mixing a drink:
Fill five glasses halfway with crushed ice. Add about 125 ml of the seed base to each, along with a tablespoon of your favorite mix-in. Top off the glasses with sparkling water, club soda, milk or other liquid. Add straws and enjoy.
- So far, I prefer mixing mine with club soda, half & half, plus a bit of flavored syrup (an italian soda). I really want to try one with rum and coconut milk which seems like it would be very good. Thai iced tea is another drink I’d like to try adding these to as well.
- Basil seeds are available at asian groceries in little 2oz – 4oz packets.
- If you try making this, please do not use seed packets intended for planting unless you can verify there are no added chemicals or fertilizers.