Sawasdee (hello) krub everyone!
Wow, it sure is blazing up here in Bangkok. Perhaps the hot dishes are not always so cool in such crazy weather.
In straight translation:
Khao actually means Rice, while Chae means to soak.
Khao chae or “rice soaked in water” was first introduced in the era of Phra Phutthaloetla Naphalai or King Rama II of the Chakri Dynasty (current dynasty) as a means to compromise with the hot summer.
In fact, Thai celebrity Chef McDang, believes that it is the only Thai dish that can truly be considered as a royal Thai dish.
Khao chae was adapted from a simple Mon recipe into a more complex, and a more elegant one. Consisting of a larger variety in its side dishes.
Although you don’t need to be a member of high society to enjoy it, due to the elaborate process required to make the side dishes it’s only widely available from mid-end of March until the end of April.
The Khao Chae itself consists of rice, scented water and crushed ice. The rice is partially boiled with its husk intact to keep its shape so it doesn’t get too soft when immersed in the scented water. The rice is then “chae” with crushed ice and water, scented with a particular type of candle and some Jasmine flowers, giving it is unique taste and aroma.
The side dishes are what brings Khao Chae up to its reputable taste. Although there are various recipes, the most traditional ones are as follows:
– พริกหยวกสอดไส้ (Prik Yuak Sord Sai)
– This side dish is very special, the Prik Yuak or young green peppers are inserted (Sord Sai) with seasoned minced pork. Moreover, it is carefully laced and covered in beaten egg and fried all together.
– ลูกกะปิ (Loog-Kapi)
– These deep-fried shrimp paste (Kapi) balls (Loog) mixed with exotic additions of shallots, garlic, palm sugar and wild ginger.
– หอมแดงยัดไส้ (Hom Daeng Yud Sai)
– Similar to Prik Yuak Sord Sai, but instead of the bell peppers, these are the red Thai Shallots stuffed with ground fish, palm sugar, fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic, white pepper, kapi, galangal and washed chillies. These are then later battered and deep fried.
– ไชโป๊ผัดไข่ (Chai Po Pad Khai)
– Stir-fried Pickled Chinese turnips (Hua chai pow) with egg. The turips are caramelized with palm sugar which gives off a distinctive rich brown colour which are well balanced with the egg.
– หมูฝอย/ เนื้อฝอย (Moo Foy/ Nuea Foy)
– Shredded sweetened pork or beef. The preferred meat are shredded into thin strands, marinated and dried with fish sauce and palm sugar before being deep fried.
– Fresh cucumbers, fresh chillies, wild ginger, unripen mango and springs onions are also served along side these fried side dishes to maintain the entire meal’s freshness.
Tips to Eating Khao Chae:
You’ll only need the a little bit of rice, perhaps a third of a bowl and cover it with the scented water and a small amount of ice. You only want to soak your rice, not drown it or turn into mush.
The side dishes are never to be put into your bowl of rice. Take small bites of the different side dishes, enjoy the flavors and let it enhance the cooling Khao Chae. Be sure to partake in the fresh vegetables so that your palate remains balanced from all the sweet and rich side dishes.
Where to find Khao Chae:
April is the month of Khao Chae, which means the dish will soon be available all over Thailand, from five-star hotels to small family-run Thai restaurants.
If you find yourself hooked and want to eat it all year, here are a few of the best places to enjoy Khao Chae in Bangkok.
1. Lai Ros
Which actually means a variety in taste. Known to have provided fantastic Khao Chae throughout many decades.
– Rama 6 Chain:
– Sukhumvit 49 Chain:
Closest to Phrom Phong/ Thonglor BTS Station
2. Sanguan Sri
Short walk from Ploen Chit BTS Station.
3. Than Ying:
Located in Satorn, a short walk from Surasak BTS Station
Good luck and we hope you enjoy this rare delicacy! Happy tastings everyone!
From all of us at Chao Hostel.
Photo Credit: Matichon