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Bangkok Post
Bangkok Post

Khao chae cool

The House of Smooth Curry's khao chae takeaway set.

At this very scorching minute, khao chae, which in recent decades came to be seen as a rather old-fashioned gastronomic ritual, is all the rage on Thailand's food scene.

From 5-star restaurants and hip cafés to street vendors and social media pages, the once obscure khao chae now turns up just about anywhere.

Perhaps it's the heyday nostalgia of an ageing society. Or maybe the weather is simply too hot for anyone, young or old, to resist the cooling comfort of this delicacy.

Meaning "rice soaked in water", khao chae is an example of Thai gastronomic wisdom from the time before ice cream and air conditioning systems, when diners desired a palatable escape from the summer heat.

Inka's contemporary reinterpretation of classic khao chae, dubbed 'Rice in Ice'.

Essential to the recipe is ice-cold water scented with fragrant flowers, traditionally mali (jasmine) and chommanad (bread flowers).

The rice, meanwhile, must be old and firm rice grain and repeatedly rinsed and polished to remove excess starch before being steamed cooked.

To avoid an unpleasant mushy mouthfeel, the rice is placed in the cold water right at serving.

With the soaked rice now as centrepiece, a variety of savoury side dishes -- each requiring painstaking labour and profound know-how to prepare -- is also vital to the khao chae experience.

The selection of side dishes depends on the styles and recipes that have been passed on within each community. Famous and well-respected recipes are usually prepared in royal-related households, and hence are called "palace-style".

The palace-style khao chae sets for takeaway and dine-in from Salathip Thai restaurant.

Diners can expect to find from an upscale khao chae platter side items such as luk kapi (deep-fried shrimp paste balls), hom dang yud sai (deep-fried stuffed shallots), nuea foi (crispy shredded caramelised beef), phrik yuak sord sai (chilli pepper stuffed with seasoned minced pork and shrimp wrapped in egg net), chai pow phad khai (stir-fried sweet radish with egg), pla chon hang (caramelised dried fish), as well as neatly carved fresh fruit and vegetables.

The correct way to eat khao chae is to put a spoonful of rice and the side items into your mouth separately, one at a time. Don't put any side items into the rice as it will cloud the water and create an unpleasant odour and taste.

Here are some of Bangkok's worth-checking-out outlets for khao chae, which are available only for a limited time.

Doi Kham

The royal-initiated social enterprise cooks up khao chae only four times during the season, offering only 200 sets for each selling period. The price is 500 baht per set. Those who wish to catch the next available batch for April 19 should place the orders by April 17. The season's last offerings must be reserved by May 2 and picked up on May 3.

For more information, call Doi Kham Shop Ratchathewi at 065-940-2457 or 065-940-2461.

The House of Smooth Curry's khao chae takeaway set.

Phra Nakhon

The restaurant's khao chae is a gourmet adaptation of a classic Mon tribe recipe crafted by award-winning head chef Kannika Jitsangworn. Available for dine-in and takeaways throughout April at 981 baht net per set.

Phra Nakhon is located at Capella Bangkok. Call 02-098-3814.

Royal Osha fine dining Thai restaurant offers meticulusly-prepared khao chae for dine-in, takeaway and in chef's table style.


This daughter brand of the long-established Nara Thai Cuisine offers its signature Rice In Ice, a creative reinterpretation of classic khao chae, at 850 baht per set or 990 baht per set including a seasonal Marian plum frappé. Inka's khao chae is available daily until the end of May.

Inka is located at Central Embassy. Call 02-160-5989 or 098-435-7114.

A sharing set of khao chae for two from the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.

JT Café

A stylish and casual café where an elegant version of khao chae showcases the Jim Thompson brand's commitment to serving authentic Thai cuisine using premium, organic ingredients. The café's Khao Chae Jim Thompson dining experience, which finishes off with a mango sticky rice dessert, is on offer until May 9 and priced at 792 baht per set. Only 30 sets are available per day.

JT Café is located at Jim Thompson Art Center in Soi Kasemsan 2. Call 06-5717-3395.

The gourmet adaptation of a classic Mon tribe khao chae at Phra Nakhon restaurant.


Throughout April, the restaurant offers palace-styled lunchtime khao chae with candle-smoked rice as its signature highlight. The rice is accompanied by a range of side dishes including crispy pulled pork or beef, steamed banana chilli stuffed with minced pork, and caramelised pickled turnips. The prices are 990 baht per set for dine-in and 1,290 baht per set for takeaways.

Flourish is located at Sindhorn Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. Call 02-095-9999.

Royal Osha

Exemplifying the meticulous craftsmanship of Michelin-starred Thai cuisine chef Vichit Mugura, Royal Osha's khao chae is offered until May 31 for dine-in, takeaway and in chef's table style.

The chef's table experience allows diners to see the process of making the delicacy demonstrated in detail, the menu consisting of five appetisers, one set of khao chae with seven side items and one dessert; priced at 4,000 baht per person. A regular dine-in platter costs 1,250 baht while a takeaway set in luxurious red box costs 2,250 baht.

Royal Osha is located in Witthayu Road. Call 02-256-6555.

A khao chae platter from JT Café at Jim Thompson Art Center.

Mandarin Oriental

Available at the hotel and all four Mandarin Oriental shop locations throughout Bangkok, a set of khao chae by award-wining Thai cuisine head chef Pom Phatchara is prepared to a family recipe passed on by her grandmother.

Prices are 855 baht net per paper-box set for one person, and 2,455 baht net per sharing set for two which comes in an exquisitely made enamel tiffin box.

Mandarin Oriental shops are located at Siam Paragon, Central Chidlom, The Emporium and Gaysorn Village. Call 02-659-9000.

House of Smooth Curry

Authentic khao chae made in the traditional manner using organic rice supplied direct from local farmers is served for lunch and dinner throughout April. Prices are 950 baht for a dine-in set and 1,350 baht for a takeaway set in a sustainable wicker basket. The set also includes a dessert of seasonal Marian plum in chilled syrup.

The House of Smooth Curry is located at The Athenee Hotel Bangkok. Call 02-650-8800.

A takeaway set of the lunchtime khao chae from Flourish restaurant.


From now until the end of May, the riverside Thai restaurant serves up palace-style khao chae prepared with sustainable local ingredients. Prices are 790 baht net per set for dine-in and 2,250 baht net for a takeaway set arranged in a tiffin carrier.

Salathip is located at Shangri-La Bangkok hotel. Call 02-236-7777.

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