An inexplicable inner conviction arises – as long as the rice fields flourish, so will the gentle people of this verdant valley; the fate of rice is inextricably intertwined with the fate of Thailand itself.
For thousands of years, rice (khao in Thai) formed a cultural and culinary cornerstone in the Siamese and Lanna kingdoms. Even today, a meal in Thailand is considered incomplete without the ubiquitous inverted-bowl mound of rice. In fact, the Thai verb “to eat” (kin khao or taan khao) literally means “to eat rice”. Revered as a life-giving elixir as well as a symbol of kindness, this unassuming grain plays a pivotal role in religious customs and celebrations. Thais regularly give offerings of rice to monks as a form of merit-making, to gather good karma and blessings.
KHAO by Four Seasons finds its inspiration in Thailand’s long-standing love affair with rice. Nestled amid emerald paddy fields, this new all-day dining destination at Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai is a fitting tribute to the magical grain that has nourished the Mae Rim valley and beyond for millennia. An intimate, exceptional dining experience awaits at this enchanting location, blessed by the Goddess of Rice herself, standing guard in the sala with the rice fields at her feet.
A Sojourn Through the Silk Route
The one-of-a-kind culinary journey at KHAO, meticulously designed by passionate culinarians, takes diners deep into the vibrant food and drink culture of Thailand, with delightful detours into Burmese and Yunanese cuisine along the way. The sojourn through the Silk Route also opens a window into age-old gastronomic secrets from the Lanna Kingdom of Northern Thailand, or the Land of a Million Rice Fields.
The menu seamlessly blends timeless tradition with contemporary flair: KHAO’s talented chefs have drawn deeply from treasured heirloom recipes, creatively reimagining them in ways that surprise and engage the palate. Culinary enthusiasts will discover a richly-layered tapestry of flavours and cooking techniques that have been handed down over generations, with knowledgeable servers illuminating the hidden ancestry of each course as it arrives at the table.
Some of the rare traditional dishes on the menu are impossible to find even in local restaurants. Imagine being able to experience the recreation of a recipe that – until now – was lost in the mists of time or remained a well-guarded family secret. Diners can explore the carefully-crafted selection to find their favourites – from Yam Pla Fu (a northern delicacy of crispy local catfish and tangerine), to Maw Din (tender pork and vegetables, slowly simmered in an earthenware pot), to Goong Mae Narm Yang (grilled giant river prawns, procured from local hill tribes, with seaweed caviar).
The first and only gastronomic destination of its kind in the stunning Mae Rim valley, KHAO by Four Seasons is now open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. With intriguingly varied menus for different times of day, there is never a dull moment here.
At the helm of the KHAO kitchen is a native of Chiang Mai, Chef Anchalee Luadkham, who brings to the table a tremendous cache of time-honoured cooking techniques and trade secrets passed down to her through her grandmother. Chef Anchalee is a true culinary virtuoso, passionate about discovery and innovation; her mastery of Thai cooking has been showcased at Four Seasons properties around the world. She is ably supported by Chef Rada Phanpung, who also inherits a rich culinary pedigree from her family. She has been practicing her craft at luxury hotels for nearly two decades, with a special expertise in wok-style cooking. Together, this powerhouse duo blends the old with the new to create an inspired rendition of Thai cooking.
The Bounty of Mae Rim Valley
The finest locally-sourced ingredients lend each morsel added character. Much of the restaurant’s fresh produce comes from the Royal Project, the heart and soul of healthy eating and sustainable farming in Thailand. An initiative of Late His Majesty, King Bhumibol, not only does this project grow fresh organic produce but it also supports meaningful social change. KHAO sources certain ingredients exclusively from farmers who work with the Royal Project, with a special focus on preserving valuable local knowledge on agriculture and helping communities become self-reliant.
Blazing a culinary trail on his motorbike, Executive Chef Stephane Calvet has also made it his mission to scout for the best fresh ingredients in the region. Thanks to his discoveries, the menu at KHAO features succulent large freshwater prawns from a minority hill tribe at the Thai-Burmese border, as well as sustainable freshwater sturgeon from the lakes of the nearby Doi Inthanon National Park.
Rice connoisseurs can savor a signature selection of prized local varieties – from Rice Berry Surin (an aromatic purple-hued rice, farmed organically), to Khao Giong Doi (a delicately flavoured rice grown at high elevations near Chiang Mai), to Khao Niew San Pa Tong (a nutritious sticky rice with restorative properties). Afternoon tea, served in an elegant tasting room, comes with tea and coffee packaged exclusively for KHAO by Northern Thai estates.
Details in Design
The theme of all things indigenous continues with the homegrown, paddy-inspired design of the restaurant. Plates imprinted with rice husks bring the delicate beauty of the fields onto the table with copper-finished cutlery adding a traditional touch. Handcrafted white stoneware highlights the evening mood, while husk-colored pottery from local Chiang Mai artisans liven up the breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea experience. Traditional wooden cooking utensils offer a peek behind the scenes, while lamp shades in the form of traditional sieves evoke the idyllic countryside.
The Spirit of the Rice Field
Debuting at KHAO is the exclusive new rice-based liquor, ‘The Spirit of The Rice Fields’, made from organic jasmine and glutinous white and purple rice, grown locally. All proceeds from the sale of this rice, cultivated with natural rain water from local mountain streams, are donated to schools and hospitals in Northern Thailand. The spirit is then handcrafted in the style of a vodka, distilled in copper pot stills at a micro-distillery in Mae Rim.
Cocktail connoisseurs, meanwhile, will love the selection of personalised beverages by celebrated mixologist, Javier de las Muelas. These very special creations including D Martini and Mon Cham, designed exclusively for KHAO, boast complex flavours and intricate techniques – hallmarks of Javier’s passionate, detailed approach to the art of cocktail-making.
A Timeless Journey
At KHAO, every dining experience holds the promise of the extraordinary. It can be a story, revealed through taste and texture. It can be a memory, fondly retrieved from the past and recast into new form. It can be a revelation, opening a gateway into an exotic new culture. It can be all of these things – and more.
For more information, visit www.fourseasons.com/Thailand