Every April in Thailand, the scorching heat and the glaring sun means makes the idea of life without air-conditioners unimaginable to many. Turn back the time to the reign of King Rama V however, when ice was a luxury that needed to be imported from Singapore, cooling-off took a lot more effort. Another way people back then relieved themselves during the hottest time of the year was khao chae.
Translated directly as "soaked rice", khao chae is pretty much exactly that. A bowl of rice steeped in iced jasmine-scented water would be served on a platter along with an assortment of sweet and savoury toppings. Traditionally, these toppings would include shrimp paste balls, fried bell pepper, stuffed shallots and sweet salted beef..
Khao chae has always been associated with the Thai regal history. A favourite of the royalties back in the day, the delicacy of is fact of Mon—a Myanmese ethnic group—origins. Known as peung dage ("rice and water") in Mon culture, Mon khao chae would be presented to elders and monks during the Songkran—New Year—season, as well as worshipped to the Songkran goddess for prosperity. The tradition found its way into mainstream Thai culture with the migration of the Mon population into Thailand.
The Thai khao chae that is common in today’s culture is khao chae savoey, which is what was served to HM King Rama V. Back then, the jasmine-scented water would be stored in earthenwares and served in porcelain dishes to maintain the cool temperature.
Click here to see six of the best khao chae around town this time of year.