Khao Chae: A Cooling Thai Summer Treat

April is the start of the Thai summer. Actually it’s one big hot summer all year long here in Thailand, but this particular month is important. Not only that it is the hottest month of the year, it’s also the month that we celebrate our Thai new year, known as Songkran.

Songkran isn’t just about its famous water festival, but it is also a time to refresh oneself, to turn over a new leaf, to start afresh.

So I’d like to introduce you to one of the most refreshing treats to be had this Summer. The dish is not as popular or well-known as phad thai or tom yum kung, but it does have a significant role in Thai culture — Khao Chae.

Originally a royal cuisine, or a dish that was developed within a palace, or by a member of a royal family, it is now however a common Thai dish, found in various Thai restaurants in town, usually only in the month of April.

The name derived from how it is served. “Khao” means rice, and “chae” means to immerse in water. The rice is first parboiled, making it chewier than usual, then served immersed in icy cold jasmine-scented water.

What do we eat this with? A variety of mostly sweet side dishes, which include young pepper stuffed with minced pork, sweetened shredded beef or pork, glazed Chinese turnips, batter-fried kapi or shrimp paste, and more, depending on the “house” the recipe is passed down from.

Unlike other Thai dishes, it is less flavorful and not at all spicy, so it is not much of a favorite to many locals, but it sure is an interesting dish for foreigners with a rather more delicate palate. So give it a try. It only comes once a year!

Read more:
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About the author

Kitty Chirapongse
Kitty was born, grew up and still lives in Bangkok, Thailand. Her Thai name is Alisara Chirapongse but she got the nickname from her Catholic background - her saint is Saint Katherine.
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  • I love jasmine so I’m sure this would be delicious. Although I do like spicy food too, I don’t think I can claim to have a delicate palate!

    Hope you’re managing to keep cool.

  • Sounds delicious! I must admit I don’t know much about Thai cuisine except that it is hot! Thanks for teaching me something new.

  • I haven’t tried a Thai dish I didn’t like, though I’ll admit some left me chugging water and fanning my mouth.

    Thanks for the excuse to go back to Thailand :)