A TASTE OF THAILAND
Khao Chae: A Dish Royale
WORDS SARITA URUPONGSA
By wanting auspiciousness from the
heavens, the Mon people created
a dish meant for the gods that later
became fit for royalty. Now this
ambrosial dish, Khao Chae, is enjoyed
In Mon tradition, the refreshing
fragrant dish Khao Chae (khao, rice
in Thai, while chae means to soak)
features the purity of jasmine rice
infused by floral water with the
tasty companions of savoury side
dishes – meant for celestial beings
during the Songkran rites of the
ancient Mon group.
Khao Chae was His Majesty
King Rama IV’s favourite and during
that era, Yison Phad Waan (sweetened
stir-fried eagle ray fish), and Chai
Pow Waan (sweetened dry turnips)
served as accompaniments. Other side
dishes like Hua Hom Yad Sai (stuffed
onions), Prik Yuak Yad Sai Moo (green
peppers stuffed with minced pork), and
colourful vegetables were added in
the later years of King Rama V’s reign
— making the recipe known as “Khao
Chae Savoey” the Royal Khao Chae.
After the passing of His Majesty
in 1910, the Khao Chae menu was
shared with the rest of the kingdom,
in many provinces in the central part
of Thailand and eventually become
the sought-after summertime menu,
particularly during Songkran. The recipe
we see these days is the adapted
version and is a specialty dish in menus
belonging to old-style restaurants.
Apart from the gustatory satisfaction
and the aromatic fragrance of the
cooling rice soaked in the local floral
water, each accompanying side dish is
crafted marvellously, with unique and
sophisticated ingredients and methods.
The way to prepare Khao Chae is thus
a vibrant and enjoyable process, just
like its gratifying results.
How to Make Khao Chae
Cook rice (jasmine rice is highly recommended for its ideal texture
and gentle fragrance) until it softens. In a rice cooker, this should
be a few minutes before it goes off. Drain any remaining cooking
water from the rice before pouring in cold water and do it again
until the rice cools down. Later, scrub the rice gently with both
hands to rinse off any starch and let it dry by using a straining or
cheese cloth. The next step is a little more complex and requires
the Thai aromatic candle. Smoke the rice in a container with a lid.
Put the lit candle in. Its smoke releases a fragrance that should
be that of Thai flowers like a light jasmine and cananga. Keep the
candle in and close the lid as it snuffs itself out with the absence
of oxygen. Leave it overnight to rest.
Kapi Thod (deep-fried shrimp
paste balls); a key side dish.
Pound garlic, coriander
seeds, sliced shallots, sliced
Chinese ginger, and sliced
lemongrass together before
adding shrimp paste.
Add catfish meat and more
Stir-fry all the ingredients
together until they become
cooked and dry. Knead into
balls, soak them in eggs and
fry to golden perfection.
Hua Chai Pow Waan
(sweetened dry turnips)
Clean and slice the dry
Saute sliced onions in the
pan and add the dry turnips.
Continue cooking them together,
adding palm sugar and continue
frying some more.
Add an egg and continue
frying. Make sure that it doesn’t
dry up since it can harden the
turnips and impact the taste.
Prik Yuak Yad Sai Moo
(green peppers stuffed with
Mix the minced pork with
garlic, peppers and season
with sugar and fish sauce for a
deeper savoury taste.
Cut open the green peppers,
clean out the membranes and
seeds inside, and stuff it with
the marinated pork mixture.
Steam in high heat, wait for
about 15 minutes until the
green peppers change colour.
Soak them in egg and fry
to golden perfection.
Khao Chae should be
accompanied with fresh
vegetables to cut the greasiness
of fried items. Prepare
vegetables such as Chinese
ginger, thinly-sliced green
mangoes, thinly-sliced fresh
turmeric, cucumbers, spring
onions and do carve them for
an impressive presentation.
How to Enjoy Khao Chae
Place the smoked rice in a bowl and pour the cool flower-scented and fragrant water in
before adding ice (flakes). First, taste the side dishes separately. Follow this by having the
rice and a taste of the scented water.