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How to fold refreshing Thai wet napkins

When I was in Thailand last winter, I had the opportunity to work with several talented cooks and eat at many great Thai restaurants. Almost every meal started with beautifully folded, delicately scented, cold, wet napkins. This is a great way to start a meal!

Folded rose wet napkins


Every Thai restaurant has a unique way of folding their napkins and many have unique scents. In Thailand, where it is very humid, the napkins were always served cold. In Japan, they have a similar tradition called o-shibori. In the summer, napkins are served cold and in the winter they are served hot. I love this tradition. Hot or cold, it is such a nice way to start a meal. I had to learn how to do it.

Start with a scent

There are a variety of ways to scent your napkins. You can use essential oils like this lemon grass oil I brought back from Thailand. Amazon sells a variety of essential oils. Or you can use lemon water, or a few drops of rose water or orange flower water.


Prepare a large bowl of water and add some of your chosen scent. Buy some inexpensive white wash cloths. You want thin ones, not thick plushy ones. I bought a stack of them at Costco. Dip each washcloth in the scented water and wring out most of the water, then follow these steps:

Spread the napkin on a work surface.

Fold in half diagonally.

Fold the napkin back over itself leaving about 1 1/2" to 2" on the bottom of the fold.

Fold back over in the opposite direction.

Repeat until the entire napkin is folded into one long straight piece.

Using two hands, flip the napkin over so the folded side is facing down.

Starting at one end, begin tightly rolling the napkin up.

Keep rolling.

Roll some more until the napkin is completely rolled up.

Now for the hardest part. When you get to the end, tuck the tip back into one of the folds in the napkin so the end of the napkin is secure.

And you are done!

Continue with all of your napkins until they are all rolled up.

Put all the napkins into a metal bowl and put in the fridge for at least an hour.


If you want to make hot napkins for the winter, roll the towels the same way, put them in a roasting pan and cover with foil. Put the pan in a 275 degree oven for 20 minutes before serving the napkins. Check the napkin temperature to make sure they are not too hot before serving.


Your guests will be wowed!

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Thai-style recipes to serve with your napkins

Highlights from my trip to Thailand


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