The Khao Mok Gai is one of my favorite Thai dishes. It’s very simple yet delicious – yellow rice with chicken, served with clear soup and a unique sour-hot sauce. Despite its simplicity, the dish offers complex flavors that are rather hard to find in street/market stands or restaurants across Bangkok. Although you will find quite a few places that offer the dish (even in Paragon and Terminal 21), its taste won’t be remotely close to the wonderful, authentic flavor of the dish, when served in places that do it justice.
The dish origin is said to be India, and apparently from there, it found its way to the southern and eastern regions of Thailand. It is very popular among southern locals and Muslims. Naturally, the restaurants which serve the dish in Bangkok are also Muslims, so you are most likely to identify the waitresses and hosts by their head covers. That’s a rather distinct sign which suggests that Khao Mok Gai is served in the place. As the dish is mostly served by Muslims, you won’t find any pork fat or oyster sauce on your plates.
I’d like to entertain you with a personal story regarding the dish. Even though I’ve known Thailand through and through for 20 years, and enjoyed the Thai kitchen for decades, up until 5 years ago, I didn’t even know this dish exists. A few years ago, I visited an exhibition at the Bitec convention center, and at the local food center, laid my eyes on the dish for the first time. Khao Mok Gai was cooked and served in one of the food stands, and my spouse, who originally comes from south Thailand, suggested we try it. Luckily, they knew how to do it justice and served us a delicious dish. I rarely find myself excited about foods, but this time, I was blown away. However, since Bitec is situated at Bang Na, rather far from my home, I started searching across Bangkok for a place – be it a restaurant or food stand – that serves delicious Khao Mok Gai, as good as the one I tasted for the first time.
I’ve consulted Muslim acquaintances and local taxi drivers who recommended a certain restaurant at Phra Pradaeng, and another one on Rama 9 street. I have visited the two places and indeed, wasn’t disappointed. Others told me of a very famous stand on Tonglo street (Sukhumvit soi 55) – which draws visitors from afar. I’ve been there, but the stand was always closed by the time I got there.
And then, one day I went to the food center right down the street from my house, and suddenly I see a food stand with a lovely auntie (with no head cover) who cooks and serves Khao Mok Gai. I immediately tasted it and was astonished – it was absolutely perfect! I told a neighbor who also loves the dish, and since then, nearly every day we visit auntie Mook (which means pearl) who serves the most delicious Khao Mok Gai. The dish consists a ‘mountain’ of delicious yellow rice, a perfectly cooked chicken and a bowl of tasty hot/sour soup, and costs 40 baht, yet we take the ‘enhanced’ dish which includes extra chicken and brown, boiled egg, for which we pay 60 baht.
Even though I’ve been eating the dish almost every day for a couple of years now, I struggle to describe its flavors. As I said before, it’s a simple dish with complex flavors that are difficult to put into words. I’ve ‘grilled’ auntie Mook for a while about the ingredients which give the rice its delicious taste and apparently, these include anise, cinnamon and many other spices.
Khao Mok Gai literally means – chicken buried in rice, and I highly recommend anyone to try it. Unfortunately, a good Khao Mok Gai is hard to find, and all the tourist shopping centers I visited fail miserably in providing a decent dish.
However, I did find a website with good Khao Mok Gai recipe . Try is, you might be able to make a good one, so bon appetit!!
And auntie Mook, stay healthy and strong, keep it going and keep them coming! Your Khao Mok Gai is simply wonderful, and you deserve to be famous for it around the world!!