Last Updated on December 16, 2020 by Chef Mireille
Nam Khao – Laotian Rice Ball Salad – This Laotian Salad can easily serve as a summertime main course. The rice balls themselves can also be served as an appetizer on their own.
It’s summertime and summertime means backyard parties. Some might be casual affairs with everyone chatting over burgers and weiners. However, summer is also the time for garden parties. The tables and chairs come out of the shed, it’s covered with a nice tablecloth and topped with gorgeous dishes and stemware. These sit down semi-formal dinners make for a lovely afternoon with friendly conversation, good food and drink and the summer sun!
However, it’s often a lot of work for the hosts. Planning the menu has additional factors to consider. After all, when eating outside in the hot sun, people don’t generally want hot, heavy meals so they sweat up a storm while trying to eat it. On the other hand, if you keep it too light with just salads, they are going to leave your house and immediately feel the need to drive to a restaurant afterwards as they will still feel hungry.
This salad creates the perfect balance. The salad base is light and fresh and yet the rice balls are filling. This filling salad can easily serve as the main course at your next garden party.
Laotian food has similarities with Thai food. In fact, the famous Green Papaya Salad that we all eat in Thai restaurants actually originated in Laos. I first came into contact with Lao cuisine and culture when I went on a volunteer vacation to Worthington, Minnesota which had a large influx of Lao immigrants at the time. I’ve already previously posted Lao cuisine with this delicious curried Chicken Noodle Soup. Today, I am presenting a popular Lao Salad, with the main ingredient being deep fried rice balls. Frying always makes everything taste better right?
This salad traditionally includes som moo, a pickled pork sausage. The only Lao sausage I could find in Chinatown was a fresh sausage, not pickled, so that is the one adaptation I made to the traditional recipe. Pickling is very common in Lao cuisine. Recently, I’ve done a lot of exploring into this region of the world by visiting both local Lao restaurants like Khe-Yo and Cambodian restaurants. Generally pickled vegetables are served with most dishes. Any variety of vegetables can be used like cauliflower, carrots and broccoli. Vegetables are blanched and then pickled with vinegar, sugar and salt. Although I did not include it, pickled vegetables will also be a nice addition to the salad.
I had just come back from the farmer’s market with a variety of salad greens so I used a combination of Red Boston Lettuce, Radish Sprouts and Red Mizuna in the salad base, but you can keep it simple and just use some Romaine Lettuce if you prefer. Also, the pretty garnish of edible flowers is optional but will definitely make the salad plates look pretty at your garden party!
HOW TO MAKE RICE BALLS
Want to make them Vegetarian? Substitute the meat with mashed chickpeas or soya chunks and use Tamari (fermented soy sauce) for the fish sauce!
The Gluten Free Rice Balls are so delicious you can even serve them on their own as a party appetizer if you prefer!
For the non alcohol drinkers, pair it with this refreshing Rhubarb Lavender Iced Tea.
Garnished with the pretty flowers – who can resist right!!!
Nam Khao – Laotian Rice Ball Salad
- 2 cups cooked jasmine rice
- 2 cups ground pork
- 1 cup frozen grated coconut defrosted (or freshly grated coconut)
- 2 tablespoons red curry paste
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 beaten eggs
- 4 thinly sliced shallots
- Oil for deep frying
- Salad Ingredients:
- 7 oz. Laotian sausage or som moo
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 7 dried red chiles
- 4 cups firmly packed lettuce greens per serving
- 7 limes
- 1 cup dry roasted peanuts coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
- Combine all rice ball ingredients except the oil. Mix well until thoroughly combined. Form into small meatballs, 26-28 in quantity. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (this helps them firm so that they will not break apart when frying). You can also make them a day in advance and leave them overnight in the refrigerator.
- Heat enough oil for deep frying. Fry until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
- Saute sausage in an oiled skillet.
- In a skillet heat oil. Add chiles and fry until they soften a little, 1-2 minutes. Leave to cool for a minute and break into pieces.
- Toss lettuce with lime juice, peanuts, cilantro and chiles.
- Break apart the rice balls by hand.
- To serve, add the broken rice balls and sausage on top.
- Garnish with the edible flowers.
Ah wow, this salad sounds fantastic Mir. I so enjoyed your intro, made me visualize the scenes how it might happen! Summers are really a grand time to host parties and meet friends. It always makes it more interesting when we meet over great food..good choice and I enjoyed reading about this cuisine.
summer is definitely the ideal time for entertaining – especially outside
The salad looks nice and filling , thanks for giving the vegetarian substitutes . I have made these blanched pickles and feel they would definitely add great flavours to the salad . Awesome Mir ,this salad is giving me great ideas ! Thanks a ton for the lovely share .
The rice balls remind me of Italian arancini. This all sounds delish!
yes albeit with a different flavor profile
I totally understand entertaining in summer. Though our food choices are different the sentiment is the same, right? This salad sounds so exotic.
theres something about summer – everyone feels like entertaining right!
Interesting dish, quite a new dish for me. Thats fabulous you have showcased this dish to us. And that salad looks absolutely filling and definitely a satisfying one.
yes its definitely a great balance – filling but not heavy
I have seen the sweet rice balls but this savory version sounds quite interesting too and must have tasted yummy in the salad.
yes – they were absolutely delicious and balanced with the fresh salad
Salad sounds interesting and quiet new to me,must be a delicious salad.
yes – I totally fell in love with the idea of these rice balls and they were so good – sure you would love them also 🙂
While I was reading the intro of your post, I was thinking of asking you to make it vegetarian and you already made it easier for me by providing veg alternatives. Thanks for sharing. This is the first time,I liked a non veg dish so much.
I always try to make my recipes adaptable for Vegetarians also
These rice balls sound amazing! Here in Italy, we have arancini but of course they have a totally different taste. These sound really delish. Love the idea of serving them on salad with sausage.
Yes I love arancini also and have made them before – but I love experimenting with different cultures and I found these just as delicious
Absolutely love the look of this salad! We went to northern Thailand recently and we loved the food, as you say, a lot of influence from Laos in the cuisine, including the famous green papaya salad. There’s a Laotian restaurant in London now where they serve authentic cuisine!
more and more Lao and Cambodian restaurants have been popping up here recently and I have been checking them out. It’s so wonderful how small the world is becoming – allowing us to experience other cultures no matter what part of the world we live in
As always Mireille I enjoy reading about different world cuisines on your blog. Giving a veggie option for this salad is brilliant.
thanks – glad you like the additional options
Now this looks like my kind of salad! I love the unique ingredients – and it looks filling too!
thanks – yes it is -makes the perfect summer meal
Nice knowing about Lao cuisine Mir. The deep fried rice balls look delicious and the salad looks so pretty with edible flowers.
thank you – yes I think the flowers make everything so inviting
I love reading your blog. There is so much information there about different cuisine. Laotian cuisine, to be true did not even heard about it and you gave me something new. Thank You.
I am lucky in NYC we have exposure to so many different cultures and cuisines – My manicurist is actually Cambodian 🙂
I too have never heard of Loatian cuisine. This is something I would try and would mind exposing my guests to these rice balls in the future. Thanks for the recipe!
sure – glad I was able to introduce a new cuisine to you
So interesting to read about a different cuisine. This is also something like the Italian rice ball, Arancini. Thanks for the meat substitute suggestions!
sure – but quite a different flavor profile than the arancini
Love the word picture you have painted of picnics and friends and fancy tablecloths. The dish looks beautiful!!
thanks – yes I hope narration helps bring he recipe alive 🙂
Looks so perfect and balanced dish.
thanks – yes it is both filling and light at the same time!