As we all know, delicious, fragrant rice should always be served hot. But every rule has an exception, and summer is the time to serve khao chae, or “chilled rice.”
A Mon dish traditionally made during Songkran, khao chae is half-cooked rice rinsed several times with water to remove all the starch. “Once the rice looks really clean, put it in cold water for a while so that the rice isn’t cooked any further,” instructs Chef Charoensri Wattanasri at Thara Thong. When half-dry, put the rice into a piece of cheesecloth, and steam it over boiling water until it is cooked. “That way the middle of the rice will still be a bit firm as khao chae should be,” she says.
Then comes the next important ingredient: nam dok mali (jasmine-scented water), which has to be prepared the night before. The traditional way to make it is to fill a clay pot with cold water and add a handful of fresh jasmine blossoms, then carefully float a jasmine-scented candle on the water before covering the pot for 15 minutes. Repeat the process so that the scent from the candle and the jasmine permeates the water. Leave the water to sit in the clay pot overnight. When it’s time to serve, mix the rice and water in individual serving bowls, and toss a bit of fresh jasmine on top.
Khao chae alone is refreshing but bland, so there are many side dishes. Favorites include hom daeng yud sai (deep-fried stuffed shallots), chai pow phat (stir-fried dry turnip), small fried fish, muu or nueng sawan (shredded sweet pork or beef), prik yuak sord sai (green chilli peppers stuffed with minced pork and shrimp and wrapped in a crispy egg net), luk kapi (deep fried shrimp paste balls), and slices of green mango and cucumber.
Making the tasty tidbits requires some effort and patience—this is not fast food. Take luk kapi, for example. You have to grind galangal, lemongrass and fingerroot into a paste and blend it with ground dried-fish and shrimp paste until it becomes sticky. Add some sugar and mix it again until smooth. Roll into small balls and dip them into stirred egg yolk before deep-frying.
“The Phetburi version keeps it simple by serving only three side dishes—luk kapi, sweet fried fish,and chai pow phat,” explains Chef Charoensri. “However, with the royal style you have a more numerous and elaborate options, and the small fish is usually replaced by shredded sweet beef.”
For the original Mon-style khao chae, you’ll need to go to Koh Kret, Nontaburi, or Phra Pradaeng during the Songkran festival. But royal Thai and Phetburi khao chae are available all over town at this time of year.
Where to Chill with Your Khao Chae
Set (B150): khao chae, luk kapi, prik yuak thord yud sai (fried green chili pepper stuffed with minced pork wrapped in crispy egg net), khai dang kem (salted egg yolk), nhung phra kem chubb numtan (salty fish skin mixed with sugar), green mango and cucumber.
1/F, All Seasons Place, 87/2 Wireless Rd., 02-685-3860. Open daily 11:30am–10pm. Available through Apr 30.
Set (B150): khao chae, luk kapi, hom dang yud sai, prik yuak sord sai, and shredded sweet pork.
Sukhumvit Soi 49, next to Samitivej Hospital, 02-391-4988. Open Mon-Sat 11am-2pm, 5-10pm, Sun 11am-3pm. Available through May 30.
Krua Mae Yui
Set (B200): khao chae, luk kapi, hom dang yud sai, prik yuak sord sai, and shredded sweet pork, carved veggies.
53/1 Soi Ari-Samphan 1, Phaholyothin Rd., 02-619-9952. Open daily 10am-9pm. Available through May 1.
Set (B150): khao chae, luk kapi, prik yuak sord sai, hom thod sord sai phra (deep fried shallots stuffed with fish), phra wan (sweet fish), neur foi or moo foi (shredded pork or meat), chai pow pad wan (sweet stir-fried daikon).
120/4-5 Suhkumvit 49, 02-391-3193.
Open daily 10am–10pm. Available all year.
122 Rama 6 Rd., 02-279-2895. Open daily 11am–10pm. Available all year.
Set (B180): khao chae, luk kapi, hua hom yud sai, prik yuak sord sai, muu foi or shredded sweet pork, green mango, green onion and cucumber.
269 Larn Luang Rd., Pomprab, 02-281-3088 ext. 129.
Open daily 6am-10pm. Available for dinner through April 30.
Set (B275): khao chae, luk kapi, hom thod (deep fried shallots), prik yuak yud sai moo (green chili pepper stuffed with minced pork, chai pow pad khai (stir-fried dry turnip with egg) and neur wan (shredded sweet meat).
10 Pramuan Rd., between Silom 15 and Silom 17, 02-236-4361. Open daily 11:30am-10pm. Available for lunch through the end of May.
Set (B450): khao chae, kapi (fermented shrimp paste), deep-fried shallots stuffed with minced fish, neur sawan foi (shredded and salted beef fried with palm sugar), chai pow ped pud wan (white Chinese radish fried with egg), prik yuak sord sai (chili peppers stuffed with seasoned minced pork wrapped in thin sheets of fried egg-white) and khra chai.
2 Captain Bush Lane, Siphya Rd., 02-266-9214. Open daily noon-2:30pm, 6:30-10:30pm. Available Apr 9-17.
Set (B370): khao chae, luk kapi, hom thod (deep fried shallots), prik yuak yud sai moo (green chili pepper stuffed with minced pork and shredded sweet pork and beef.
The Peninsula Bangkok, 333 Charoennakorn Rd., 02-861-2888. Open daily 6-10pm. Available through Apr 15.
Set (B155): khao chae (with kadanggha, mali flower, and candle fragrant), luk kapi, hom dang yud sai, prik yuak sord sai, chai pow pad wan (stir-fried sweet dry turnip), muu foi (shredded sweet pork), cucumber, thon hom (green onion) and khra chai.
n 239 Thonglor Soi 13, 02-391-8703, 02-391-8719. Open daily 10:30am-10pm. Available through May 30.