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Nam Khao Tod (Thai Crispy Rice Salad Recipe)

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Nam khao tod, a unique Thai crispy rice salad recipe, combines fried rice balls, red curry paste, and classic Thai seasonings. It’s served as a tasty appetizer by Thailand and Laos street food vendors, but it totally doubles as a light main if you ask me.

Close-up of nam khao tod, a Thai crispy rice salad recipe, with pork skin, fermented pork, fresh herbs, and spices.

Don’t forget to try some of my other Thai pork salads: yum woon sen pork and Thai pork larb recipe.

What is nam khao tod

Nam khao tod, or yam naem, is a Lao and Thai salad with crispy rice balls broken down and tossed with Thai seasonings, fermented pork, and pig skin. This staple blends a crunchy texture with bold flavors, making it a street food favorite in Southeast Asia.

Thai crispy rice salad

This Lao crispy rice salad is definitely not your average greens and dressing mix. It’s like nothing you’ve had before.

We’re tossing together crispy fried rice balls (yes, they’re as good as they sound), a sprinkle of Thai spices, and a bit of fermented pork.

Close-up of crispy rice salad, nam khao tod with a fork lifting some of the salad over vegetables and fresh herbs.

That crunch from the rice balls is everything, it’ll make you want to eat this salad any day.

I’ve tried this salad several times over the last few weeks and the flavors have been a hit every time. Salty, sour, spicy, and slightly sweet with the perfect texture.

Here’s how we’ll make it: we fry the rice balls to a perfect golden crunch and then crumble them. Then, we’ll mix them with lots of fresh herbs and spices, fish sauce, peanuts, and pork skin.

Traditional nam khao tod with crispy rice, tangy sausage, and peanuts.

Not a fan of pork skin? No worries, you can totally skip it. If you’re in, it adds that delightful chewiness that makes nam khao tod stand out.

Why try this Thai salad recipe

  • You can totally serve the rice balls on their own: They’re an irresistible snack, perfect for when you want a bite that’s crispy, crunchy, and just plain delicious.
  • It’s easy to customize the flavors: Prefer it extra spicy or mild? Just adjust the amount of red chili paste and chilies to your taste.
  • Great for any meal: It’s a fantastic option for lunch, dinner, or anything in between.
  • It’s unique: Lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes? Not here. This Thai salad brings a whole new concept.

Ingredients

Ingredients can be sourced at Asian grocery stores and Asian markets.
The exact measurements are in the recipe card at the end of this post.

Thai crispy rice balls ingredients

Ingredients for Thai crispy rice balls laid out on a banana leaf - minced pork, steamed rice, red curry paste, kaffir lime, sugar, fish sauce, tempura flour, water, and an egg.
  • Rice – Steamed rice is shaped into a ball, and then deep-fried to crispy perfection.
  • Minced pork – Infuses the rice balls with a meaty, savory flavor.
  • Red curry paste – Red curry paste gives a fiery kick to the rice balls. Use my homemade Thai red curry paste recipe or buy store-bought (Mae Ploy or Maesri) at Asian grocery stores.
  • Kaffir lime leaves – Adds a fragrant, citrusy aroma. You can get these fresh or dried at Asian supermarkets.
  • Fish sauce – Fish sauce, a key ingredient of Thai cuisine, adds a layer of umami to the rice balls.
  • White sugar – A bit of sweet is essential for balancing out the spice and salt.
  • Egg – Used as a binding agent, adding richness to the mixture.
  • Water – For adjusting the consistency and making sure the mixture is right for forming the perfect balls.
  • Tempura flour – For coating the rice balls, ensuring they fry up to a crispy texture.

Nam khao tod ingredients

Ingredients for nam khao tod displayed on a banana leaf - golden Thai crispy rice balls, pork skin, shallots, ginger, coriander, green onions, dried chilies, peanuts, chili flakes, MSG, lime, and fish sauce.
  • Naem moo – A fermented pork sausage for nam khao som moo. You can use Lao som moo recipe to make them yourself, or try finding them at Asian grocery stores.
  • Pork skin – Pork skin adds a chewy contrast to the salad.
  • Coriander & green onions – My choice of fresh herbs, feel free to customize with your favorites like mint.
  • Shallots – Shallots add a light, natural sweetness.
  • Ginger – Ginger is a common ingredient in Thai cooking, served with dishes like miang kham recipe, chili dips, and Thai ginger chicken recipe.
  • Chili flakes – Add chili flakes to taste to customize the heat.
  • Fish sauce
  • Lime – Adds a tangy note to the Thai salad dressing. Make sure to use fresh lime juice, not the bottled stuff.
  • MSG – A flavor enhancer, making each flavor more delicious.
  • Fried peanuts – Adds a nutty texture and taste.
  • Fried dried chilies – Frying dried chilies gives them an extra smoky aroma.

Cooking instructions

Prepare Thai crispy rice balls

Step-by-step preparation of Thai crispy rice balls showing rice mixing, seasoning, and ball forming stages.

1. Mix ingredients: In a large mixing bowl, combine steamed rice, minced pork, white sugar, fish sauce, red curry paste, and kaffir lime leaves.

2. Knead rice mixture: Gently knead using your hand, making sure all ingredients are well mixed.

3. Form rice balls: Once the rice mixture is kneaded, form it into round balls by hand.

Fry the rice balls

Instructional cooking steps for nam khao tod showing the rice balls in flour and deep-fried in oil until golden.

1. Whisk egg and water: Start by cracking an egg into a bowl, add water, and whisk it until it’s well beaten.

2. Coat rice ball: Roll a formed rice ball in the tempura flour to coat it evenly.

3. Dip in egg: Next, dip the flour-coated rice ball into the beaten egg until it’s completely covered.

4. Second flour coating: Roll the egg-dipped rice ball in the tempura flour again for a second coat.

5. Fry the rice balls: Deep-fry the double-coated rice balls in hot oil until they are golden brown and crispy.

6. Drain: After frying, place the crispy rice balls on a wire rack to drain any excess oil.

Toss the salad

Instructional steps for nam khao tod showing tossing of the Thai crispy pork ball salad in a glass bowl.

1. Prepare the base: In a mixing bowl, break down the fried rice balls into chunks.

2. Add ingredients: Combine the fried rice with fermented pork sausage, pork skin, chili flakes, fish sauce, lime, and MSG.

3. Final toss: Finish by tossing the rice mixture with fresh herbs like coriander and green onions, add ginger, shallots, fried peanuts, and fried chilies. Thoroughly combine and serve immediately.

Kitchen tools

  • Frying pan or wok with spatula + spider strainer for frying and removing the rice balls from the hot oil.
  • Mortar and pestle if you’re making the red curry paste from scratch.
  • Cutting board & chef’s knife for slicing the ingredients.
  • Measuring spoons & cups for weighing out seasonings.
  • Rice cooker or pot to steam the rice.
  • Mixing bowls for tossing the salad.

Recipe tips and tricks

  • Combine the salad right before serving: For the best texture, toss right before serving.
  • Balance the flavors: Create a nice balance of sour, sweet, salty, and spicy. Taste as you go and adjust the seasonings.
  • Use day-old rice: Not essential, but for the crispiest texture it’s best to use rice that’s been refrigerated overnight. It’s not as moist and it’s firmer.
  • Fry in batches: Don’t overcrowd the pan when frying the rice balls. Fry in batches if needed.

How to serve

Serve as an appetizer, for lunch, or a light dinner.

Crispy rice salad topping

  • Pair it with fresh lettuce leaves for crispy lettuce wraps.
  • Add extra chili flakes for those who like a bit of heat.
  • Add a side of lime wedges.

How to store

Let your leftover salad cool to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. Refrigerate and consume within 3 days.

Frequently asked questions

What is the translation of nam khao?

“Nam khao” translates to “crispy rice salad” in English.

Is nam khao tod gluten-free?

No, nam khao tod is made with tempura flour, and most tempura flours are not gluten-free. However, you can use a gluten-free version of tempura flour, as well as check the labeling of all your other store-bought ingredients, to enjoy a gluten-free salad.

Is nam khao spicy?

The spice level varies greatly on the amount of red curry paste, chili flakes, and dried chilies used. Adjust to suit your spice level.

Can I make this ahead of time?

You can prepare the crispy rice balls ahead of time, but for the best texture, assemble the salad close to serving time.

More Thai salad recipes you’ll love

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Nam Khao Tod (Thai Crispy Rice Salad Recipe)

Nam khao tod Thai crispy rice salad with fresh herbs and sour sausage on a wooden plate over banana leaf.
Nam khao tod - Thai crispy rice balls tossed with fresh herbs and spices, perfect for an appetizer or a light dinner.
Praew
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Cuisine Thai
Course Salad
Serving Size 2 people

Ingredients

THAI CRISPY RICE BALLS

  • 8.8 ounces steamed rice
  • 2.11 ounces minced pork
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 ounce red curry paste see notes
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 5.3 ounces tempura flour

NAM KHAO

  • 3.5 ounces fermented pork sausage sliced
  • 1.75 ounce pork skin cooked and finely sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili flakes add to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon MSG
  • 0.35 ounces coriander
  • 0.35 ounces green onions
  • 1.05 ounce ginger finely chopped
  • 2.1 ounces shallots finely chopped
  • peanuts fried, add to taste
  • dried chilies fried, add to taste

Instructions

PREPARE THAI CRISPY RICE BALLS

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine steamed rice, minced pork, white sugar, fish sauce, red curry paste, and kaffir lime leaves.
  • Gently knead using your hand, making sure all ingredients are well mixed.
  • Once the rice mixture is kneaded, form it into round balls by hand.

FRY THE RICE BALLS

  • Start by cracking an egg into a bowl, add water, and whisk it until it’s well beaten.
  • Roll a formed rice ball in the tempura flour to coat it evenly.
  • Next, dip the flour-coated rice ball into the beaten egg until it’s completely covered.
  • Roll the egg-dipped rice ball in the tempura flour again for a second coat.
  • Deep-fry the double-coated rice balls in hot oil until they are golden brown and crispy.
  • After frying, place the crispy rice balls on a wire rack to drain any excess oil.

TOSS THE SALAD

  • In a mixing bowl, break down the fried rice balls into chunks.
  • Combine the fried rice with fermented pork sausage, pork skin, chili flakes, fish sauce, lime, and MSG.
  • Finish by tossing the rice mixture with fresh herbs like coriander and green onions, add ginger, shallots, fried peanuts, and fried chilies. Thoroughly combine and serve immediately.

Notes

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
  • Red curry paste: Use my homemade Thai red curry paste recipe or buy store-bought (Mae Ploy or Maesri) at Asian grocery stores.

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