Nam khao (ແໝມເຂົ້າ) is a crispy rice salad. It has a subtle curry undertone with tart highlights from the lime and som moo (sour pork), aka, nam sausage for which the dish got it’s name. Another salty, sweet, tart, crunchy dish that satisfies so many crave factors and highly addictive, in my opinion.
Nam khao is one of my sister’s specialty, but I was determined to learn it to make it myself this year. I want to be able to make it whenever I want. I’ve watched my sister make it so many times. So how hard can it be, right? Well, it’s not that bad if you learn a few tricks and I learnt them the hard way. Try to make it one time, take it to a family function and listen to the feed backs. Have you ever been part of a Lao family? They don’t hold back on feed backs, which in a way is bad, but in a way is good. Take it as an opportunity to grow from it though! Trust me, they are not saying it because they want you to fail.
Even with an earful of feed backs, there was one note or one trick that they didn’t shared with me and I had soggy nam khao over and over again until I figured this out. But no worries, I will save you the sulking over a bowl of soggy nam khao, which is still delicious by the way especially when you’re sulking.
Here are my notes:
- The rice – this is the single most important note. If you come crying back to me saying your rice was not crispy, I will know you did not read this note. It really isn’t a trick at all, but it’s very counter intuitive of how you expect your rice to be. Any other day, you want the right ratio of water to rice when you steam rice. Well, that perfect fluffy rice is not right for this dish. If you want a more crispy rice, reduce the amount of water used to steam your rice. I reduced the ratio from my normal 1.75 to 1 (water to rice) to almost 1 to 1 ratio. That yielded a nice a crispy salad.
- The seasoning – the crispy rice balls themselves are already seasoned, so when adding the additional seasonings when assembling the salad, start with less and slowly add more, especially that fish sauce. Different people have different preferences and the salad is fairly customizable. You can add many other things to the salad, such as pork skins, sliced pickled garlic, or crushed chili if you want it extra spicy. Adjust to taste!
- The nam – if you are not familiar with nam sausage and the thought of having soured pork intimidates you, but you want to try this dish anyway, there is an alternative. Ham. Cube up some ham and squeeze some lime over it and it will give you a similar sour and porky flavor profile. This alternative is also a great way to use up leftover ham during the holidays. Although, can we still call it nam khao at that point? Ham khao, anybody? I’m naming it! I called it. 🙂
For Rice balls
6 cups cooked jasmine rice (cooled) **see note below
1 ½ tablespoons red curry paste
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon MSG (optional or not)
2 kaffir lime leaves (chopped)
2/3 cup frozen grated coconut (thawed)
½ cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons sugar
2 large eggs
Oil for frying
- In large bowl with rice, add red curry paste, salt, msg, kaffir lime leaves, grated coconut, coconut milk and eggs. Mix well. Form rice mixture into 2-inch balls with your hands.
- Heated oil to 350F. Fry rice balls for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on plate lined with paper towel. Allow to cool.
Cooked and crispy rice balls (from above)
2-3 thinly sliced scallions
Handful of cilantro – chopped
2 (1.8 oz) packages sour pork (som moo/ nam sausage) – crumbled
1 lime (juiced) – about ¼ to 1/3 cup (may need 2 limes if your lime is not juicy)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 ½ teaspoons sugar
- Crumble rice balls into small pieces. Add fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Mix well. Add scallions, cilantro, sour pork and toss.
Dried Thai chilies
¼ cup toasted peanuts
Serve with lettuce, mint, cucumber
- Garnish with toasted peanuts and dried Thai chilis. Serve with lettuce, mint, cucumber (similar to lettuce wrap).