As a longtime Thai food-a-holic, the restaurant, which focuses on street food from Isaan, has been on my hit list for a while. Sadly, being gluten-free kept me from trying many of the classic dishes. But one of the delicacies that I did eat – more like wolf – was the Nam Khao crispy rice salad.
When things are crunchy and carby, it sets off all of my gluten free alarm bells. Something is off, I thought, as I dug into the rice salad, which was so crispy it appeared to be deep fried (in the most delicious possible way). While it was indeed safe, I then assumed that the texture would be way too difficult to recreate at home. WRONG!
Luckily my friend sitting across the table from me was no stranger to crispy rice salads and immediately told me that she makes an even more delicious version (this Jessica Merchant recipe). When I got home, I read through the instructions and couldn’t believe how easy it was. I also couldn’t believe, as my friend told me, that it would remain crispy even as leftovers. LIES!
Well, needless to say, I tried my hand at Nam Khao once I was back in my kitchen, and was blown away at the results. Inspired by Jessica, I made her version which is vegan and packed with marinated kale. I didn’t miss the sour pork in the Night + Market version at all and was very happy not to have to deep fry anything.
Since this recipe revolves around greens, white rice, and herbs, it’s a great dish to adapt to be low FODMAP. You simply omit the shallot and garlic. I made it this way and it was still excellent.
If you’re not vegan, you can sub fish sauce for the tamari for an even more authentic Thai experience or add red curry paste for some heat. Regardless of what you mix in off the heat, the most important element is getting that crunch, which happens easily when you undercook the jasmine rice and then pan-fry it into a crispy rice pancake. Don’t rush this process.
One tactic for getting the rice extra crunchy is to wrap your pan lid in a dish cloth. Be careful here: mine got a little charred around the edges. If your towel isn’t long enough to tie at the top, use a rubber band to cinch it so there’s no fabric flapping over the sides and coming too close to the hot pan sides or flame.
Read on for this Laotian Nam Khao recipe, by way of Thailand, Los Angeles, and now Brooklyn…to wherever in the world you are.
With health and hedonism,
Vegan Nam Khao (Lao Crispy Rice Salad with Greens and Herbs)
- 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice or other long grain white rice
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 Fresno chili or jalapeno ribs and seeds removed, minced
- 1 shallot thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1 bunch lacinato kale stems removed and finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup gluten-free tamari
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts
- 1 lime quartered, for serving
- Place the uncooked rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse well multiple times. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the rice. Cook the rice for 5 minutes. Drain the rice in the strainer (it will be slightly undercooked and that’s okay!) and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- In a large lidded skillet or saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil over a medium-high flame. Sauté the peppers and shallots until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the ginger and cook for 1 minute more. Transfer the pepper mixture to the bowl with the rice and toss to combine.
- Place the skillet back over medium-high heat and add the remaining oil. Once hot, add the rice mixture and use a spatula to press it into one layer, like a rice cake. Wrap the pan lid tightly in a large kitchen towel – be very careful it’s not touching the pan or it might char. Cover with the towel-wrapped lid and cook until the rice is golden and crispy, about 7 minutes. Using a flat spatula, flip a few parts of the rice cake and crisp the other side, another 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, keep it covered with the lid and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in the large mixing bowl, toss the kale with the olive oil, lime juice and salt. Massage with your hands until dark green and wilted. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the tamari, vinegar and sesame oil.
- Off the heat, gently toss the crispy rice with the kale and transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with the tamari mixture. Top with the scallions, cilantro, peanuts and lime wedges.