|A Set of Khao Chae|
As of now, mid April, summer heat has approached the land of smile and surely this is the hottest part of the year with temperature of 35 degree Celsius almost everywhere. Seeking for some cool and refreshing dish is indeed typical. At this time of the year, many places in Thailand do offer a traditional summer dish called “Khao Chae (ข้าวแช่)” in addition to their ordinary menu for Summer.
Figures above show Side Dishes and Rice in Jasmine Water
So what is Khao Chae? It, at first, may sound simply just rice in cool/iced jasmine water with many different side dishes but it is more complex than we have thought. Before going into more detail, let me briefly give you the background history of it. Khao Chae was not originated from Thai people but Mon, at the time of their reign. Not until the time of King Rama V, Khao Chae was hardly recognised by Thai residence. King Rama V was passionate to Khao Chae resulting in the popularity and recognition spread out afar. At the early year, it was regarded as “Chao Wang” dish or dish from palace; nevertheless, it is now available widely from local markets to high end restaurants. However, Khao Chae is typically for sale during Summer time in Thailand only.
Figures above show Prik Yuak Yud Sai, and Kapi Thod & Hom Daeng Thod
Let’s us now get back to the dish itself. Choice of side dishes does vary from place to place including Prik Yuak Yud Sai or Pork Mince Stuffed Green Pepper Wrapped with Drizzling Fried Egg (พริกหยวกยัดไส้), Kapi Thod or Fried Shrimp Paste Ball (กะปิทอด), Hom Daeng Thod or Fried Whole Red Onion (หอมแดงทอด), Moo Foi or Shredded Pork (หมูฝอย), Moo Toob or Pounded Pork (หมูทุบ), Chai Pow or Chinese Style Preserved Radish (ไช้โป๊ว), and Kai Kem Thod or Fried Salted Egg (ไข่เค็มทอด). Most of side dishes of Khao Chao contain rather sweet flavour: Fried Shrimp Paste Ball, Shredded Pork, and Chai Pow. The highlight of these side dishes is probably Prik Yuak Yud Sai: preparing a nice one is indeed depending on recipe but serving a beautiful one with perfect drizzling fried egg wrapping around green pepper in a mesh-like pattern is an art. In addition, they are usually served with fresh vegetable, such as Kra Chai or Fingerroot (กระชาย), Cucumber, Raw Sliced Mango, and Spring Onion, to be eaten along side.
Moo Foi on left and Moo Toob on right
Chai Pow on left and Kai Kem Thod on right
Today, things are always in rush and hurry and the matter of return comes to play a major role, people do not tend to keep strictly to tradition anymore. The process of preparing rice in cool jasmine water requires patient. Unlike just putting parboiled rice in iced jasmine scented water as nowadays, rice is soaked in water with jasmine flower overnight and added the final touch of complexity by smoking with fragrant candle.
As mentioned earlier that Khao Chae can now be found in many Thai restaurants during Summer, please allow me to introduce to a few great restaurants that serve splendid Khao Chae in Bangkok.
SaNguan Sri: an old fashion restaurant on Witthayu Road that annually serves Khao Chae from Mid March to April.
Address: 59/1 Witthayu Road, Lumphini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10120
Tel: +66 (0) 2251 9378
Hours: daily during lunch
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok: the famous hotel along the Chao Phraya River does usually serve Khao Chae as one of dishes in its buffet line during lunch in April at Sala Rim Naam. Mandarin Oriental also offers A la Carte set of Khao Chae at its shops in downtown.
Address: 48 Oriental Avenue, Charoen Krung Road, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500
Tel: +66 (0) 2437 6211
Hours: daily between 12pm and 3pm