Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nam Khao Tod (Laotian Fried Rice Ball Salad)


A lot of the food I grew up eating is a mix of different Asian dishes from different regions in Asia. This particular dish is from Laos. When I was home during Christmas, we stopped by the Laotian food plaza and my sister ordered some Nam Khao Tod. I haven’t had this in years.

I remember making this dish with my aunt when I was very young. It was something that my family made every once in a while but since it was easier to order from a Laotian restaurant, we seldom made it ourselves. Sometimes I will go to a party and the host will serve trays of nam khao ordered from a restaurant. (I also love the trays of banh cuon that are also usually ordered for these events.)

A lot of Laotian food is a little too pungent for me but I do enjoy most of the dishes. The problem is I can never make it as tasty as my Laotian friends. The sour pork sausages in this dish can be a bit overwhelming for many Western palates. I didn’t tell the bf that the chewy noodle-like strands were boiled and sliced pork skin. (He is still alive and well.)

I’ve never made som moo sausages (soured pork) before because we always bought it from the store. If you’re lucky enough and live in a large city, you might be able to find it at your local Asian grocery store. If you can’t find the sausage and want to make your own, I think there is a mix sold by Lobo called Nam powder mix.

The Lao Cook website has video on their site with pretty detailed instructions. It doesn’t look like they used the powdered mix so I suppose it is possible to make it using natural fermentation. I’ve never tried this and am quite leery since it requires fermenting raw meat. The sour sausages I am using are from my aunt. I visited her last week and she gave me several varieties of homemade sausages. (She just bought a new meat grinder and sausage stuffer contraption.)

I have the sausage so it must not be very difficult to make the other components of this dish. Well not exactly. Unlike other Asian recipes, Laotian recipes are very difficult to find. I searched for recipes but mainly found blogs about people ordering this dish from a Laotian restaurant and are now searching for a recipe. One of the blogs I found featured Lao Champa restaurant in Oakland, California. I have eaten at this restaurant. My sister took the family there when we went to her graduation. Our server was one of her classmates. I remember it being very good but still the site did not have a recipe. I looked to Joy's Thai food site (because she usually makes both Thai and Thai Isaan recipes) for guidance and although she does have a recipe, it was very vague.

How difficult can this be? I know most Asian recipes are not measured using exact quantities so it should be very forgiving. In preparation for this recipe, I wrote down the ingredients I thought I needed and then I filled in the measurements as I cooked. I was working from the memory of my one and only experience making this and my memory of the tastes and textures of this dish. I tried my best to cook this, jot everything down and to photograph the steps. I wish I had a few extra sets of hands in the kitchen. It turned out very well. I am quite satisfied. Feel free to enlighten me if I failed to execute a crucial step or if I leave out a vital ingredient.

Rice balls:
3 ½ cups Jasmine rice
½ cups grated coconut
1 pound ground pork, chicken or turkey
2 eggs
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
MSG, to taste
Fish sauce, to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
Oil for frying

For the salad (Quantities are for one serving of three rice balls.)
¼ cup peanuts (use the raw, skin-on peanuts and toast them yourself)
1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced
5 sprigs coriander leaves, finely chopped
½ length (about 3 tablespoons) Som Moo (sour pork sausages), torn into small pieces
1 tablespoon fried shallots (I used the fried shallots sold in a little canister.)
juice from a wedge of lime

To serve:
Green leaf lettuce
Dried chili peppers, fried
lime wedges
coriander leaves

Mise en place:

1. Cook rice in rice cooker and allow to slightly cool.

2. Grate the coconut (if using fresh coconut). I used frozen grated coconut because it is much easier and for this recipe, the frozen stuff is fine. I just grated a fresh coconut yesterday but I’m saving it for a different recipe. Someone told me that they even made this with Baker’s sweetened coconut and it tasted fine. I think the recipe will also work with the unsweetened shredded coconut I use for coconut cupcakes.

3. Toast, peel and chop the peanuts. You will need about one to two cups for the entire batch. Raw peanuts can be found at Asian grocery stores. It will be labeled either “raw peanuts” or “red peanuts.” My mom used to toast the peanuts in a small frying pan but I find it easier in the oven. Once the peanuts are toasted, allow them to cool and then skin them by rubbing the peanuts between your fingers. I used to do this is the backyard. After rubbing the skins of the peanuts, I would blow the skins off the tray to get rid of them and leave only the heavier skinless peanuts. At this point, I would use a mortar and pestle to crush the peanuts but I don’t have one so I chopped them up with a knife.

Directions:

1. Mix together the cooked jasmine rice, grated coconut, ground meat, eggs, salt, pepper, MSG, fish sauce and sugar

2. Firmly pack the rice mixture into balls about 2 inches in diameter. (I actually make my “balls” into flat saucers in order to increase the surface area for frying. This way, I get more crunchy crust pieces.)

3. Working in batches, fry balls until dark golden brown in color.

4. When all rice balls are fried, toss in a few dried red chilies into the oil and fry for a few seconds, until fragrant. (I never eat the chilies so I omitted them.)





To assemble salad (You can mix up the entire batch or assemble serving size portions. The quantities above are for assembling a serving size portion of three rice balls.)

1. When balls are cool enough to handle, break the balls into smaller pieces.

2. Add chopped peanuts, green onions, coriander leaves, sour pork sausages, fried shallots and lime juice. Mix well.

3. Serve with lettuce, additional lime wedges and fried chili peppers.




10 comments:

Laocook said...

Hi Malisa, and thanks for mentioning the site and recipe for the Fermented Sausage.

We call this dish Nhem, and it is one of our favourites.

FYI we also posted some time ago our recipe for the dish which has (most of) the measurements. I hope you find it useful.

http://laocook.com/2009/04/12/nhem/

BTW. Love the site, will be spending some time going through it. Happy 2010.

MsWickedlyLovely said...

I LOVE this dish! I noticed that you didn't use red curry paste though. How come?

malisa said...

i reason why i didn't use red curry paste is because i was trying to replicate the version i buy in san diego and that version doesn't include the paste. i don't miss it because i've never had the version with the curry paste.

Craig said...

Hi Malisa,

I've been craving nam khao tod since my wife and I moved from San Diego to Boston. We used to have it at Asia Cafe on Market Street. I can't find anywhere in Boston that serves this dish! Is Asia Cafe the version you're trying to replicate? Even it's not, I'm making this dish sometime soon! Thank you for the thorough recipe.

malisa said...

craig - i don't remember ever trying the nam khao at asia cafe. i have eaten at asian cafe in the past. i used to go eat there with one of my close friends from high school. it was her uncle's restaurant. the last time i had nam khao in san diego was at lao community plaza - right up the street from asia cafe.

several people mentioned that i omitted the red curry paste in the rice ball mixture. i didn't realize red curry was an ingredient in nam khao. my friend told me that her mom subs ketchup for the curry paste because they don't care for the flavor.

have you tried looking for a lao restaurant near boston? i know there is a pretty large lao community in providence, worcester, and lowell. i can't remember any of the restaurants i used to eat at when i lived out east.

Craig said...

Hi Malisa,

We haven't really explored beyond Boston, but are always willing to check other spots out. Thanks for the tip. As for Asia Cafe's nam khao, I don't believe it's on the menu, but we asked for it (I believe on a mmm-yoso tip) and thought it was great. The only other version we've had was in Garden Grove at Vientiane, which was also excellent. We love Boston, but miss some of the joints we used to hit in SoCal, many of them courtesy of mmm-yoso. Thanks!

Daniel said...

thank you! Although I only like a couple blocks from Vientian Cafe in Oakland I know someday I won't! It tastes PERFECT!

malisa said...

Daniel: Have you tried Champa Garden? My sister took the family there for dinner when we were in town for her graduation.

Wayne Phillips said...

This recipe soes not need MSG

malisa said...

wayne: i think you can omit whatever ingredient you feel like omitting. i have a friend who refuses to make coconut cake with almond extract. to her, it's not needed. that's the beauty of cooking for yourself. you can omit, substitute, and add to suit your own tastes. i personally do not have a problem with msg. i grew up eating it and i feel that it has gotten an unfair bad rap. i won't try to change anyone's mind about msg. just know that if you are eating asian food at my house, it will likely contain msg.

 
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