Khao chae and chill

Summer begins at Ruen Noppagao

Khao chae served with seven side dishes.

As the temperature rises, summer menus are being rolled out and one of the Thai summer classics is khao chae or rice in cold water with an assortment of side dishes.

Ruen Noppagao on Sathon 6 serves not one type of khao chae but three: original, vegetarian and halal. I tried the original style. All of their delicacies on this set menu are served in exquisite Benjarong ware adorned with a peafowl motif, specially made for the restaurant and the menu.

Coconut milk ice-cream, sweet rice noodles, popped rice and black sticky rice.

The first appetiser is Watermelon with sweet dried fish made of sun-dried snakehead fish seasoned with coconut flower sugar (milder than cane sugar), fleur de sel and deep-fried shallots. It is served with cold watermelons and organic rose petals. The savoury fish and the sweet juiciness of watermelon complement each other. The slight sweet taste of rose petals adds an extra layer of depth to every bite.

Kung hom sabai or shrimp spring roll sees the shrimp marinated with coriander root, garlic and pepper, a combination known as sam klor (three friends in Thai). The shrimp is wrapped in spring roll sheets, deep-fried and served with a bitter orange dipping made with Ruen Noppagao's secret recipe. It is very crunchy and has the right balance of salty, sour and spicy.

After the hot and cold starters, the Whan la moon mocktail cleanses the palate. Inspired by miang kham, it is a delectible combination of flavours and aromas. In one sip you'd get essences of ginger, lime, betel leaf and coconut flower syrup with nothing overpowering each other. Like the name suggests, it adds a mildly sweet and sour pause to the meal.

Whan la moon mocktail.

Kung hom sabai.

Watermelon with sweet dried fish.

The main course, khao chae, is served with seven side dishes: Fried shrimp paste balls, red onions stuffed with sweet dried fish, deep-fried starch-coated salted egg yolks, stuffed bell peppers, flossy pork, sweet stir-fried snakehead fish and fragrant preserved turnips stir-fried with lard. They can be paired with carved sour mangoes, shallots, black ginger and cucumbers. The flossy pork, fragrant preserved turnips and stuffed bell peppers are standouts of the side dishes, but the true star was the rice and the iced water, which is infused with Damask rose, bread flower, Songkhla ylang-ylang and jasmine.

Dessert is Thai interpretation of petite fours. A combination of coconut milk ice-cream, sweet rice noodles, puffed rice and black sticky rice. The dish is topped with a coconut flower caramel that lends a pleasing aroma to compliment the crunchy and sticky texture of the puffed rice.

The signature khao chae at Ruen Noppagao is available until May 15 and is priced at B999 per person (take-home set for two is B1,999). Visit ruennoppagaorestaurant.com.

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