Thai biryani in Charoen Krung
Khao mok kai or Thai-style chicken biryani is composed of seared, marinated chicken atop a bed of aromatic saffron rice. Thai historians believe that Persian merchants introduced a similar recipe centuries ago, that was later adapted into one of the most popular halal dishes in the Kingdom.
Many khao mok kai restaurants, like Khun Lek Khao Mok Kai, are run by Thai-Muslim families; this particular establishment has been running for over a hundred years. The restaurant has maintained the recipe over the centuries as well as the price – each dish is around ฿70-฿150.
An aromatic and pleasant experience
Khao mok kai directly translates to “braised rice with chicken” – however, most restaurants also serve biryani with goat and beef. So, it’s an understatement to say that a “rich” aroma of spices like saffron, cumin and nutmeg along with marinated meats from Khun Lek Khao Mok Kai met us immediately as we walked in.
Food menu in Thai
In addition to the fragrance, we also noticed the convenience: there is a menu printed on the wall, and checklists available at every table, perfect for introverts who want minimal interactions. While the menu and the checklists are in Thai, the restaurant staff spoke English and were pleased to help us.
For extra comfort, patrons can also order from Khun Lek Khao Mok Kai by Grab or LINEMan –
It’s best to try to order before 1 PM, as their popularity leads to them running out of food quickly.
Tender, zesty and affordable
Chicken biryani, beef biryani and beef soup
We ordered Beef Biryani ฿70 (~USD 2.34), Chicken Biryani Special with 2 chicken pieces ฿75 (~USD 2.50 ), and Beef Soup ฿70 (~USD 2.34).
The chicken biryani is the most popular item, and the second the porcelain-style plate was set down, we understood why. Khun Lek Khao Mok Kai’s signature dish consisted of two tender pieces of chicken smothered in sauce, biryani rice embellished with whole pieces of clove and two chilli pastes for extra flavour.
True to its looks, the chicken meat was tender and silky and went perfectly with the velvety homemade eggplant-chilli sauce. The meat’s softness, rice’s fluffy-ness, and the paste’s sweetness created a divine combination of zesty flavours from the subtle masala spices.
The beef biryani dish was presented with deep-fried shallots and the same creamy and flavourful sauce as the chicken biryani. This dish is ideal for meat lovers who detest chewy, tough cuts – at Khun Lek Khao Mok Kai, the beef is so tender you could pull it apart with a fork – c’est magnifique.
When dipped into the chilli sauce, the beef had a sweet & sour but creamy essence to it – almost akin to the flavours of dry-aged steak. Khun Lek Khao Mok Kai used the same aromatic saffron rice for the khao mok nuea, but the beef and chilli sauce brought out the earthy tang and freshness of the cloves.
We finished our meal with the beef soup, which had a strong herbal scent from the cornucopia of spices used. From the smell itself, we could sense that it was a little spicy for non-Thai eaters. As expected, the beef in the soup was very juicy and the soup brought out the sourness of the other seasonings used.
Stop by at their local eatery
Local eateries like these are becoming harder to find in Bangkok, because of urban developments and the rise of fast-food chains. Original and recipes like these are worth the try, and plus, it’s super cheap!
The restaurant is only accessible by car or motorbike. If you’re driving, there is very limited space for you to even park your motorbike. So, it’s best to take a taxi or motorbike taxi.