Khao Chae – Thailand’s Special Dish for Songkhran
Songkhran is the old Thai New Year. It is a special time of the year for Thais, which is often trivialised by Westerners, calling it such things as a ‘Water Festival’. Describing Songkhran as a water festival is like calling Christmas a festival of wrapping paper. Do a search on Songkhran, and you will see how many silly writers have got it wrong.
The fact is that March and April are the hottest months of the year in Thailand, also called the Land of Smiles, so in long ago days, water at this time of the year was at a premium. Therefore, praying for rain, and throwing a little of the water you have over people you like, was wishing them good luck with their harvest, much of which was rice.
Songkhran is just about the only old, traditional Thai festival that has a fixed date – April 14th. The majority, if not all the others are a function of a full moon. Also traditionally, the ‘Big Monsoon’ arrived around about May 1st.
The farce that you see in Thai tourist cities these bears no relationship to the way Songkhran is celebrated by Thais in the countryside, where no-one uses 2″ bore water cannons to soak strangers. Rather, in a village, people will ask if they may put some on your head and a little wet talcum powder on your cheeks.
Khao Chae is also a tradition, but not all over Thailand, not by a long chalk. In fact, I have never seen it in the North and I have lived her for ten years. I asked my Thai wife about Khao Chae and she said that not only had she never tried it, but she had never seen this Thai dish on sale. My wife is forty-odd and has lived in Thailand all her life.
As you can see, Khao Chae has the right seasonal ingredients, namely rice and scarce water, in liquid and frozen forms, as a way of counteracting the heat of a Thai summer, when the temperature can easily be in the mid-forties Celsius.
Many of the silly articles concerning Khao Chae make it seem to be rice in iced water that has been scented with jasmine. This is partly true, but it would be a very poor meal if a national dish was just rice floating in scented iced water, wouldn’t it? It is an unbelievable recipe for sure.
The truth is that Khao Chae is cold rice, in iced, scented water with a jasmine flower, but the rice is eaten in conjunction with side dishes, which transform it into a far more memorable and appetising meal.
Thai cuisine is one of the most memorable and inspired cuisines in the world. Thais take their food extremely seriously, so for the fools who try to pass off the idea that Khao Chae is just rice in cold water are fooling no-one but the ignorant, which they obviously are too, preferring content for their web sites over the truth.
Read more about Thailand here: http://behind-the-smile.org
by +Owen Jones