Summer’s here, Songkran is around the corner, and Bangkok restaurants are breaking out the classical, cooling delights of khao chae, the traditional hot-season dishes of the Siamese royal court.
Khao chae was once known as chao wang, meaning “dish from the palace”. It was truly the cuisine of monarchs.
Two hundred years ago, ice was all but unheard of in Siam, so the ingredients were typically chilled in earthenware jars kept in the shade or even partially buried.
At the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s Sala Rim Naam, amid beautiful views of the magnificent Chao Phraya River, khao chae will be served as a part of the lunch buffet from April 1 to September 30.
Chef Prasert Sussadeewong, who launched his career at Sala Rim Naam in 2004, learned the art of cooking from his family, beginning when he was just 14. His mother taught him how to make dishes beloved of Thais, such as stirfired crab with curry powder.
Prasert is thrilled to be introducing a new generation of food lovers to such classic dishes and his modern interpretations. He describes his approach as “striving to creature authentic Thai tastes while being flexible with the ingredients”.
The lunch buffet costs Bt1,119-net on weekdays and Bt1,354 on weekends. Book a table at (02) 659 9000 or mobkkSala@mohg.com.
At the Amara Bangkok, Element will be offering khao chae all through April and May. Parboiled rice is immersed in ice-cold jasmine-scented water and presented with various side dishes, including shrimp-paste balls, stuffed sweet peppers, shredded sweetened pork, sweetened sundried fried fish and glazed Chinese turnips.
The full set costs Bt420-plus. Call (02) 021 8888, extension 5320.
At the Golden Tulip Sovereign Hotel Bangkok, 92 Cafe has a khao chae assortment made with the original ingredients and including young green peppers stuffed with minced pork that are then drizzled in egg and fried.
There’s also deepfried kapi (shrimp paste) balls rolled in ground coconut, battered, deepfried and served with cucumber, spring onions and raw mango. The menu extends to shredded sweetened pork or beef, and planaem deepfried red onions.
Available through May, it costs Bt420-net. Call (02) 641 4777.
Up & Above on the 24th floor of the Okura Prestige Bangkok will have khao chae throughout April for Bt525-plus. Make reservations at (02) 687 9000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “Summer Fresh Buffet” at Diwan at Al Meroz Hotel continuing through May 15 features khao chae alongside dishes from China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia and France. The khao chae can be enjoyed in a halal recipe, with dishes including fried shrimp-paste balls, shredded turnip and stuffed fried chillies.
Arrive in a group of four and only two pay the Bt765-net price. Call (02) 136 8700 or visit www.Facebook.com/almeroz.bangkok.