One of South East Asia’s hidden gems, Laotian Nam Khao (ແໝມເຂົ້າ) is a celebration of crunchy rice and fragrant, aromatic ingredients – it’s a taste and textural sensation.
As South East Asian salad recipes go, Laotian Nam Khao (Crispy Rice Salad) is one of the best you'll ever likely experience! I first tasted this salad in a Thai restaurant in Sydney, I was blown away by the complex taste and textures light, intense and fragrant. Years passed and I never saw it again on any menu until happening upon it in a tiny Laos market a matter of minutes from my home in Vegas.
The Laos Market serves only 4-5 items inside the mini-mart. All delicious, but none more so than the traditional Laos Nam Khao. It's served simply with a big pile of crunchy lettuce and an abundance of fresh herbs to wrap around the crunchy rice salad.
What makes Nam Khao so special?
The salad is a wonderful combination of flavour and textures. It's the texture specifically than makes it so memorable. Crispy, soft and aromatic in every bite. Here's the breakdown:
1. Cooked rice is combined with curry paste and a combination of aromatics like ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and shallots. The mixture is worked into a homogenous consistency.
2. The rice mixture is then formed into small balls ready for the next (and magically transformative) step. Tip: I like to refrigerate the rice balls for 30 minutes to help firm up the shape to avoid breaking up during cooking.