A Go-To Summer Therapy

Khao Chae set with assorted savories at Cera Resort, Cha-am

You just can’t miss the summertime when you feel the heat. The ability of a body to sweat, even at the state of absolute immobility, is a sure thing of a summer here in Thailand. While we cannot escape it, there’re some food that will not just satiate, but cool our body to the point of total satisfaction.

Two of us always spend our summer chilled – one way or another – the best we could. This year we went to Cha-am for a week, cooling in sea breeze and delicious Thai food. Being about 30 km south of Hua Hin, Cha-am proves to be a great escape, with much less traffic, more affordable resort and a lot of places to keep us wonder.

Clockwise: kratong thong served with sweet and salty minced pork, mee krati (vermicelli with curry), Khao Yum (southern delicacy of mixed rice salad) and my favorite of green beef curry and roti.

We stay at Cera Resort at Suksamer Beach. A brand new hotel built in a style of architecture that reminds me of the early 1980s. The resort has two buildings; in the middle are lobby, swimming pool and a landscaped lawn. As the name might tell, ceramic plays a good part here as the decoration items, from colourful globes at the lawn and lobby to the guestrooms as coffee table, reading lamp and bathtub. The name behind these colourful things is Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch, one of Thailand’s leading ceramists and artists and the second-generation owner of Tao Hong Tai, who also designed three of the five themed grand suites at the hotel.

Clockwise: fish fillets in white sauce, spinach gratin, pepper steak and salmon steak

The friendly ambiance of the place aside, we also found solace in their delicious and wallet-friendly food. Sitting at the opposite alley next to the main property is the all-day cafeteria of the resort that just resembles my own kindergarten, with their two-storey dining area adorned with colourful ceramic letters and a push-and-open steel sliding door like an old-style shophouse. The cafeteria’s attached kitchen always hums with activities. Now, at the beginning of summer, they are very busy preparing their famous Khao Chae which is the recipe passed down by the owner’s family. Khao Chae is always a ceremonious meal, usually prepared by the whole household or village. The rice needs to be especially cooked and scrubbed while the assorted savouries – such as stuffed shallots, seasoned shrimp paste, stuffed green chilies, shredded fish and pork as well as carved green mango and galingale – delicately and elaborately prepared.

Cera Resort has been doing their seasonal Khao Chae for years (back to the days when the owner of this place owned Golden Sand Resort, now the next door Novotel), and they have every intention to keep the tradition going.

Clockwise: hard-to-find real sago stew, ceramic stoneware as sleek flower pots of the resort, playful ceramic cubes decorated the resort and my favorite mango + sticky rice

But Khao Chae is not the only thing we enjoyed during our stay there. I found their regular food, both Thai and western, deliciously comforting with many old-style and hard-to-find Thai dishes like mee krati, kratong thong and sago dessert. Mee krati is another dish I think perfect for summer. Served with loads of fresh local vegetables, the vermicelli is better when lukewarm and the lightness of the pairing curry, lime and a bit of toasted chili make a very yummy balanced taste. Then there is green beef curry served with roti. This type of curry is a bit thicker than the one you normally find elsewhere. It contains not as much vegetables, but only very thinly julienned kaffir lime leaves and green kee-noo chilies so they can be dipped or smeared on the roti. The beef here in the curry is also not lean. Tenderloin never makes good curry, but the parts with fat, especially the shank, are much preferred for they lend unique beefy aroma required by the hard-core beef curry fans.

Clockwise: Cera Resort from its rooftop sun deck, swimming pool and lawn brightened by multi-coloured stoneware globes 

But if you feel like western dishes, just order whatever you want from the menu. The dishes we tried above are tasty and the quality of the ingredients very good. I also enjoyed their homemade sago dessert made from real sago flour derived from sago trees (not the imitated sago seeds made from tapioca we normally found these days). Sago trees play key role of balancing the natural ecology of the South, they absorb the rain and moonsoon flooding. But as in all parts of this country, roadworks and highways cut through the forests and natural surroundings. Now when the sago trees are hard to find, we are left with the tapioca – the ‘economy’ plant that we are now forced to eat.

The resort is not on the beach, but only a few steps from it. The high tides at the beach might also prevent you from walking on it during the morning hours. Most of the rooms do not have sea view, but you can compensate it by going up to the rooftop sun decks and enjoy the sun going down with a chilled cocktail in your hand.

Cera Resort is at Suksamer Beach. Call T: (032) 508-545-6. They now have a Khao Chae promotion until May 31, 2013.  

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