BANGKOK HIDDEN GOURMET
Every year during the hottest month in Thailand I anticipate the coming of Songkran (Thai New Year) Festival, or Splash-water Festival in the eyes of foreign visitors, and eating of Khao chae or literally chilled rice.
As the fuel cost increases are skyrocketing, the best way to fight electricity bills is to eat khao chae to lower our body temperature. Khao chae consists of rice soaked in ice-cold jasmine-scented water served with elaborately prepared side dishes.
Khao chae chao-Mon was originated from the Mon ethnic people resident in Thailand two centuries ago, cooked to sacrifice to the God, the dish is rather simple compare to the Royal Thai version. Khao chae chao wang (the Royal Thai khao chae) which originated in the royal court of King Rama II as a dish to comfort the King (Rama II) and royal people during the hot season. The rice and water of Royal Thai khao chae is pretty complicated and requires a long process. Half cooked rice repeatedly rinsed to get rid of the starch before further being cooked, next put in cold water to avoid a premature process, drain the water; later steaming the half-dry rice in a cloth wrapper over a volcano-hot boiler until it is fully cooked in order for the scented water to look clear with the rice, earning a firm texture. The jasmine-scented water is not prepared with less effort. Jasmine blossoms are soaked in water in a clay pot with a jasmine-scented candle carefully floating on it for the water to absorb the fragrance with the pot covered for a while; repeat the process until satisfaction is met, then pour the scented water into an earthenware pot and store them overnight. When served, add the rice in the scented water followed by mini ice cubes, accompanied by tidbits.
The tidbits or side dishes, are, Luk Kapi (deep-fried fermented shrimp paste balls), Hom Daeng Yud Sai (deep-fried shallots stuffed with minced fish), Prik Yuak Sord Sai (banana chili pepper stuffed with minced pork wrapped in egg netting), Moo Foi (shredded sweet pork), Chai Pow Pad Wan (stir-fried sweet dry turnip with egg) and Carved Vegetables (green mango, cucumber, krachai, red chili and green onion).
To ensure our palate enjoys the most pleasure from the jasmine-scented khao chae and tidbits, we eat the rice and the tidbits separately, one at a time. Never put the tidbits in the rice and water as it will cloud the scented water.
Khao chae is another original deli from Thailand, it is unique and it is chic. I had my share of khao chae in the following fine establishments.
1) Lai Rot Khao Chae Chao Wang Thai Restaurant, (branch 1) 202 Rama 6 Road, Bangkok 10400, Tel.: 02-2792895; (branch 2) 120/4 Sukhumvit Soi 49, Bangkok 10110, Tel.: 02-3913193
Royal Thai style khao chae B170/set available throughout the year (recipe from the Princess Chalermkhetmongkol’s Palace)
2) Lord Jims @ Oriental Hotel, 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok 10500, Thailand; Tel.: 02-6599000
Royal Thai style khao chae includes in the lunch buffet throughout April
3) Smooth Curry @ Plaza Athenee Hotel, Wireless Road, Bangkok; Tel.: 02-6508800
Its khao chae, B320/set available in April, was the best I have ever sampled in the Kingdom. Unfortunately the restaurant’s renovation program falls in this year khao chae seasons. Go next year perhaps!
4) Koh Kret khao chae chao-Mon, near the Pier, outside Paramaiyikawas Temple, Koh Kret Island, Nonthaburi, Bangkok
Mon style khao chae B20/tidbits or B35/set available throughout the year (recipe from the original Mon ethnic people from the Cambodia settled in Thailand two centuries ago)
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