Ancient Thai food 5 Minutes from Khao San Road!


I was really pleased to come across these photos from my trip earlier this year showing a stall selling the delicious and elusive Khao Chae dish. (pronounced Cow Chair so easy to remember but not to find).


Khao Chae is an ancient Royal recipe created to cool the palate in the hot season and it is rumoured that it was served on the boats when the Royal family moved between palaces in the summer.

Traditionally it is only servedin March and April and during this period you do see in in more restaurants but i wasn’t expecting to stumble on it in a street in Dusit in January.

What is great as well as the stall is so close to Khao San Road is that it takes little time and effort to find and you can experience some real old fashioned cooking even if you are just using Bangkok as a quick pitstop or as a base for other adventures.

Although the name Khao Chae simply means rice in water it’s all the bits and bobs that are served with it that are time consuming and complex to make, which is why, although I always mean to I am ashamed to say I have still not cooked it.

But hey it’s at the top of my to do list next time I visit Bangkok – and if you have time to learn it before me – nip over to Bangkok Bold and ask Ann to teach you!

For a newbie to the dish it looks complicated to buy – but here’s a quick guide to encourage to to give this divine treat a go.

Firstly there will be a little bag of water which looks plain but in fact is jasmine scented, secondly there will be a little bag of rice which is par- boiled but left al dente they say in Italy.
Then there is the crushed ice which may be separate or in the water

Simple eh? But here come the complex and fascinating components – gently flavoured steamed minced pork stuffed in young green peppers wrapped in an egg net and fried. Deep fried shrimp paste balls which sound savoury but are actually sweet as they are rolled in ground coconut, battered and deep fried till crispy. Next is shredded sweetened pork and caramelised Chinese radish.

And finally – fresh vegetables such as spring onion or cucumber or whatever is in season.

There could also be egg or chilli – it varies a bit.

Now to the best bit – the eating! Place the rice water and ice in a soup bowl and put everything else on a side plate.
Take sips from the soup between trying each tasty morsel and in your own way you balance the tastes as you go to personal preference and to counter balance the sweet with sour.

To find it you are staying in Khao San Road just turn right at the end of the road and walk along Samsen staying on the right hand side of the road – look closely at the stalls until you see the sign because there lots of food gems along the way. You will find this just before the intersection with Prah Ahtit Road.

It should take you five minutes if you don’t get sidetracked……..

If you are not visiting in the summer season try Khao Chae on the ground floor at The Old Siam Plaza, on the corner of Burapha Road and Phahuratm Road, Old Town Bangkok. They have a stall serving it all year round and you can see many old fashioned desserts being made and best of all you can stuff your face with them.
Its very close to Chinatown and the night flower market which are both worth a visit too.

(Ann Kanarak – Bangkok Bold 503 Th Phra Sumen
Telephone: +66 98 829 4310).


Carole Mason

Freelance food writer - Author of Mae's Ancient Thai Food

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Carole Mason

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