Where to try khao chae, cool summer foods from Thai royal cuisine, in Bangkok

(THE NATION/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - 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 part of the lunch buffet from April 1 to Sept 30.
Chef Prasert Sussadeewong, who launched his career at Sala Rim Naam in 2004, learnt the art of cooking from his family, beginning when he was just 14. His mother taught him to make dishes beloved of Thais, such as stir-fried crab with curry powder.
He 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 1,119 baht nett (S$47) on weekdays and 1,354 baht 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 420 baht-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 is also deep-fried kapi (shrimp paste) balls rolled in ground coconut, battered, deep-fried and served with cucumber, spring onions and raw mango. The menu extends to shredded sweetened pork or beef, and planaem deep-fried red onions. Available through May, it costs 420 baht nett. Call 02-641-4777.
Up & Above on the 24th floor of the Okura Prestige Bangkok will have khao chae through April for 525 baht-plus. Make reservations at 02-687-9000 or upandabove@okurabangkok.com.
The Summer Fresh Buffet at Diwan at Al Meroz Hotel continuing till 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 765 baht nett price. Call 02-136-8700 or go to  www.Facebook.com/almeroz.bangkok.