Nam Khao (Lao Crispy Rice)
by Kim Vy
During the lockdown of 2020, I set up deep conversations with good humans from all backgrounds over IG Live. The first one was with Kim Vy. My sister and Kim got up to all sorts of trouble while living on the SAIT campus in Calgary – Kim in culinary arts and Jasmin in photography. Fast forward to now, and I have officially stolen her as my food-loving, not afraid to share an opinion, fellow bookworm of a friend.
By trade, Kim is an epic pastry chef in Victoria, B.C., but she is more than just a pastry chef. I’ve always wanted The Paisley Notebook to be a place where people can cook food that reflects them (sometimes, the industry makes that hard). And so, I asked if Kim if she’d like to take over my blog by submitting a recipe, and she said yes!
For me, family recipes are sacred, which makes the fact that Kim decided to share one even more special.
When someone gifts you something like that, you don’t edit. This is Kim’s recipe in Kim’s words because these stories aren’t mine to tell.
Nam Khao or Lao Crispy Rice AKA “THE RICE!”
was a staple in our household. It slightly resembles arancini but instead, the rice balls are broken up and served with sour fermented pork as a salad with greens. When eaten fresh, it’s warm and fragrant from the coconut and paste, while crispy in texture from the fried bits of rice, peanuts, cilantro, and scallion. Then you get hit with the aroma and flavour of the fish sauce which is brightened with the addition of fresh lime and chilli. Of my Mom’s entire arsenal, this culmination of ingredients is my favourite dish hands down.
As a kid, I would remember her prepping army-sized amounts for special gatherings, showing up to pot lucks, birthdays, barbecues, reunions, you name it, it was there! Every time she would walk into the room, people’s faces would light up the moment they realized she brought “THE RICE!”. She would set up this HUGE mixing bowl on the floor of our kitchen and using a coconut grating stool she would grate at least 5-10 mature coconuts (sometimes even more), painstakingly by hand, one by one. I’m not sure how many are familiar with this coconut grating device but let’s just say, they are definitely not ergonomic! When I became old enough, I was bestowed with the duty of coconut grating with much vocal teenage protest, I finally understood the amount of effort (and back pain) that went into this dish.
When shaping the rice, we would always race to see who could roll the most in the least amount of time, as I got older I realized it was her secret way of getting me to go faster, so sly! Once she finally began deep frying, the whole house would fill with the aroma of the jasmine rice and coconut, this was the part I looked forward to the most, only because I became a pro at sneaking rice balls off the plate, snacking on them before they made it into the final mixing bowl.
For those who might be feeling a bit more adventurous, the option of adding sour pork may appeal to you. This type of sausage has Vietnamese roots and was brought over to Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand by early Vietnamese immigrants. Today, you will find that this item has become an everyday staple in Southeast Asia and can be found in many local Asian supermarkets.
In preparation, the pork is slowly fermented by the formation of lactic acid giving it its sour characteristic in flavour, while the salt aids in the curing of the meat. Thus adding another element of texture and flavour to your rice if you choose. As I got older I came to appreciate the addition of the sour pork to the rice but I definitely enjoy it just as much without, either way of having it is fine and totally up to you! I promise this recipe will be a crowd-pleaser and I hope you find making it as fun and rewarding as I have over the years!
Full disclosure, I prefer it without the pork personally but my family always makes one with the pork for them and a separate bowl for me without (spoiled Canadian kid right?!).
Nam Khao (Lao Crispy Rice)
5 cups hot steamed Jasmine rice
1 bulb garlic (peeled and minced)
2 large shallot (minced)
1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
1.tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 cup coconut (fresh ground mature coconut)
1 cup crab meat (cooked and flaked)
3 tbsp. Thai Red Curry paste
Canola oil for frying
1 whole fresh lime (juiced)
2/3 cup peanuts (roasted and crushed)
2/3 cup cilantro stems and leaves (chopped)
2/3 cup scallion, (thin sliced)
2 pieces Thai Bird Chili (sliced, *chilis can also be fried for more roasted flavour)
2-3 tbsp. fish sauce
Butter leaf lettuce
Green leaf lettuce
Purple Perilla (Shiso) leaf
Thai Bird chilis
- Let the hot Jasmine rice cool for 15 minutes, once cool combine all the remaining ingredients together in a bowl and mix gently until evenly distributed.
- Roll the rice into large golf ball-sized rounds. Next heat the canola oil to 350F and add each ball one at a time deep-frying until completely golden brown in colour (4-5 minutes). Do not overcrowd the pot of oil. Remove rice balls with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on a tray lined with paper.
- While the rice balls are frying, prep the remaining seasoning ingredients into a large serving bowl except for the fish sauce. Take the crispy rice balls, and break apart into bite-sized pieces, adding them into the mixing bowl. Once all the rice balls have been broken apart, mix everything together. Mix in 2 Tbsp of Fish sauce to start and taste, add remaining tbsp if you prefer a stronger flavour. You can also adjust with more lime or sugar to your liking also!
- To plate, take a mound of the crispy rice and serve alongside the accompaniments. The rice is to be rolled into the lettuce leaves with the mint, perilla, and chilis.
SOUR PORK (for the more adventurous LOL)
- Combine all ingredients together using very clean hands and knead the mixture for about 15 minutes, or until it forms a sticky dough. Pack and smoothen tightly into an airtight container, covering the surface closely with plastic wrap. Seal the container and let stand at room temperature overnight.
- After 24 hours, refrigerate for 3 days to allow the pork to cure further.
- Once the curing process is complete, roughly chop the pork into bite-sized pieces and add to your crispy rice mixture
Oh man, I love how this recipe is written for 12! Post-pandemic goals or what?