Nam khao – popular food in Laos

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Nam khao - popular food in Laos
Nam khao - popular food in Laos

Introduction

Nam khao or naem khao is Lao crispy rice salad, a flavorful dish eaten with your fingers at a family feast or with friends after work over beer. It is laborious to make, but luckily it’s sold ready-made at street stalls and markets throughout Laos.

Nam khao or naem khao is Lao crispy rice salad, a flavorful dish eaten with your fingers at a family feast or with friends after work over beer
Nam khao or naem khao is Lao crispy rice salad, a flavorful dish eaten with your fingers at a family feast or with friends after work over beer

Steamed rice is mixed with shallots, shredded coconut, garlic and chili or red curry paste, then formed into balls and deep-fried until golden brown. Think of it as Lao arancini. Once cooled, the balls are broken up. Here’s where the “salad” part comes in.

Nam khao mixed with Som Moo

Nam khao mixed with Som Moo
Nam khao mixed with Som Moo

The crispy rice is mixed with som moo (sour pork) or sliced sausage, green onions, herbs like coriander and mint, thin strips of pork skin and a dressing of the usual suspects, fish sauce and lime. It’s topped off with roasted peanuts and whole fried red chili. As if this dish wasn’t epic enough, to eat it you scoop the salad into banana flower petals, lettuce or betel leaf and make a little wrap. The contrast of textures is incredible: crisp fried rice, wet crunchy lettuce and chewy boiled pork skin.