On the streets of Thailand, where the temperature sometimes soars over 100°, there's nothing more refreshing than a plastic bag of Thai tea! Since most of the tea shops don't have seating, the Thai people take their sweetened iced tea "to go" in a plastic bag with a straw sticking out of it. The flavors of these teas were the inspiration for this dessert. The thing that makes this dish so special is the lime in the caramel, which adds an unusual tang to the sweetness. Another bonus is the crunch and spice of the cashews that are sprinkled over the top of the pudding, adding a wonderful surprise.
Whisk the milk, eggs, and cornstarch together in a medium mixing bowl.
Combine the half-and-half, sugar, Thai tea mix, and salt in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, 5 to 6 minutes. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, and then slowly whisk it into the egg mixture until well incorporated.
Wash the saucepan and then return it to the stove. Pour the tea-egg mixture back into the pan and cook over medium-low heat, whisking constantly and scraping the sides and bottom of the pan so that the ingredients don't stick and burn, until the mixture is noticeably thicker, 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the pudding into 6 dessert cups. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.
Serve topped with the lime caramel, candied cashews, and lime whipped cream.
* Thai tea mix: This is a prepackaged blend of black tea and spices found in Thai markets.