Nem Khao (Lao Crispy Rice Salad)

For some reason I’ve been feeling incredibly nostalgic about our Southeast Asia travels lately, so I’ve been cooking a lot of our favorites from there. I first had this salad in Chiang Mai, and wrote about it here.

Although I’ve read that it’s a Lao dish, I don’t remember seeing it in Laos, but it was pretty common in Chiang Mai and I also had it a few times in Bangkok. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to making it at home, because I adore it, and it’s actually pretty simple. You just mash up some spices, mix them with rice and form patties, fry them, then crumble them up.

Then you add these ingredients, toss with lime juice and fish sauce, and you’re ready to eat!

A well-stocked Asian grocery store should have everything you need. If you can only find dreid galangal, soak it in very hot water until it is soft before proceeding with the recipe.

(adapted from Chez Pim)

crispy rice patties
1 tbsp galangal, finely chopped
1 fresh red chile, seeded and chopped
3 tbsp lemongrass, finely chopped
3 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
2 cups cooked jasmine rice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tbsp finely sliced shallots
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp julienned fresh ginger
1/3 cup lime juice
4 cup of peanuts
6 dried red chiles (I used chiles de arbol) – use fewer if you don’t like spicy food
2-3 tbsp fish sauce
1 lime, cut into wedges

To make the rice patties:
Combine the galangal, chile, lemongrass, shallots, and garlic, and pound to a smooth paste with a mortar and pestle.
Put the rice in a medium bowl, add the paste, egg, and fish sauce and mix well. Form the rice into 2″ wide, 3/4″ thick patties.
Heat the oil in a wide skillet over medium-high, and test a little bit of rice. As soon as you put the rice in the oil, it should begin to bubble right away. When the oil is ready, put in about half the patties, and fry for about 10 minutes, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a clean towel while you fry the remaining patties.

To make the salad:
Fry the chiles in the oil you used to cook the rice for about 15 seconds, making sure they don’t burn. Set aside to cool.
Break up the rice patties and place them in a bowl. Add about half the lime juice and the fish sauce. Crumble the fried chiles and add them. Toss in the ginger, shallots, cilantro, and peanuts. Mix well, then taste and add more lime juice and/or fish sauce if needed. Serve in bowls garnished with lime wedges

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6 comments to Nem Khao (Lao Crispy Rice Salad)

  • Ooh yum, crispy rice! I am all over that!

  • That looks really good, Cate! I’ll have to keep an eye out for galangal so I can try it.

  • […] looked at a few recipes online and put my version together based on what I had […]

  • happytravels

    That’s definitely a very popular Lao dish and one of my favorites. It’s most popular in Vientiane and Savannakhet in Laos.

    Lao cuisine is also served in Thailand, which is why Lao dishes like Nem Khao can be found in Bangkok and especially in Chiang Mai where the locals were directly influenced by the cultures and cuisines of neighboring Laos and Burma.

  • Sounds like a very interesting and delicious recipe! A must try!

  • Pat

    Nice post.
    Yes, it’s actually a Lao dish that has been popular there and among the Lao-speaking Northeastern Thailand region for decades before it became also popular in other parts of Thailand. You did not see it much in Laos because Lao people usually prepare the dish themselves at home. Otherwise, you can find it in market stands frequented by mostly Lao people. I now see them in an increasing number of Thai restaurants in the US.

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