Nam Khao (Lao Crispy Rice Salad)

Nam Khao is one of the most loved Lao dishes. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? It has a top-notch texture. And, it is full of so much aromatic flavor. It is one of my favorite foods to make and share with others.


What is Nam Khao and What Makes it So Fantastic?  

When I introduce people to Lao food, Nam Khao is always one of the first dishes I show them. It is always a hit. Everyone’s reaching for their next bite before finishing their first.

What makes Nam Khao so delicious? Well, to start, there are many versions of this dish. That’s because this dish has transformed from its original recipe.

Nam Khao originated in a small village called Thadeua in Laos. Oftentimes, Nam Khao is referred to as Nam Thadeua, in honor of its origins.

Traditionally, Nam Khao is a mixture of crispy deep-fried rice with soured pork, dried coconut, red curry, and fresh herbs. This creates a dish with bright and bold flavors like you’ve never tasted before. 

I love using Lao Thai Nam’s pork nam sticks or pork sausage. It gives this dish more depth along with authentic Lao flavor.

Also (when I have time,) I like to make a version that uses extra small rice balls. This lends an extra crispy layer, adding a perfect bite to this dish. I also fry up fresh bird’s eye chili to make a delicious and spicy garnish.

You will most likely find Nam Khao at many Lao celebrations. I love eating it with lettuce wraps. Typically, I will go the extra mile and add some extra pork nam on top. 


Frequently Asked Questions About Nam Khao

What curry paste should you use? 

I go with pre-made red curry paste. It saves time and is available in Southeast Asian markets. If you are adventurous and have the time, making your own curry paste is great too. Red curry paste requires chilies, lemongrass, galangal, cilantro roots, makrut lime leaves, shallots, garlic, and shrimp paste.  

What type of lime leaves do I use?  

The lime leaves you use must be from the makrut lime tree. They are super fragrant. Other lime leaves do not have the same flavor at all. In Southeast Asian cooking, we use the lime typically for cooking and the makrut lime itself to make cleaning supplies.

What type of shredded coconut should I use? 

I always recommend using dried coconut. Wet coconut will make your dish mushy!

What Lao Thai Nam product should I use? 

Any of Lao Thai Nam’s pork nam works perfectly in this dish. This pork is technically fermented so you can eat it raw. You can also cook it if you want to be extra safe.

Nam Khao (Lao Crispy Rice Salad) Recipe

Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves 3-4 



2 cups 

Jasmine rice uncooked 

2-½ cups




3 tablespoons

Red curry paste 

1 cup

Dried coconut shreds

2 tablespoons

Makrut lime leaves

1 pinch 


1 pinch 


2 tablespoons

Fish sauce

1 whole

Lime juice

1 cup

Cured pork, Lao Thai Nam 

1 cup 

pork skin

1 cup

Cilantro, diced

1 cup

Green onion, diced

⅓ cup 

Roasted peanuts, lightly crushed 


Fried bird eye chili, lettuce, cucumber 



Step 1: First, make your rice. Rinse the rice 3 times and drain it well. Then, add it to a soup pot. Pour over the water. Bring everything to a boil then cover and reduce to low for 15 minutes. I prefer this rice cooking method as it gives you more quality control.

Step 2: Put the cooked rice on a tray and allow it to cool for 40 minutes until the rice reaches room temperature. 

Step 3: Rinse the cooked pork skin then drain. Make sure to cut the strands of pork in about 2-3 inch sizes. Then, place aside.

Step 4: In a small bowl, whisk the egg. Add in the red curry paste.  You will have to smash the curry into the egg or else it will become lumpy. Make sure the curry paste is evenly incorporated.

Step 5: Add the cooled rice to a large bowl, along with the curry egg mixture.  Add dried coconut, lime leaves, salt, and msg. Make sure to mix everything evenly to avoid clumps.

Step 6: Lightly oil your hands. Then, form ⅛ cup size balls with the mixture. Making the balls smaller will give you extra crunchy bits in the final dish.  

Step 7: Heat cooking oil to 350F. Put about 3-4 balls in at the oil time. You want to make sure you don’t over-pack the fryer or else it will not fry evenly. Fry the balls for 6-8 minutes.

Step 8: Place the fried rice balls in a large bowl to cool. Once you can touch them with your hands, go ahead and crumble them. Make the crumbles different sizes.

Step 9: Time to season! Add the fish sauce and lime juice. Mix everything well. If the dish isn’t salty enough, add regular salt instead of liquid. This will take away from the crunchiness of the dish.

Step 10: Mix in pork, pork skin, cilantro, green onion, and roasted peanuts. Make sure the pork and herbs are cut into small pieces before adding. 

Step 11: Garnish with freshly fried birds eye chili, if you enjoy a little heat! 

This is one of my favorite recipes of all time. I hope you enjoy making it as much as I do! 


Recipe by Saeng Douangdara

Saeng Douangdara is an acclaimed Los Angeles-based cooking instructor and personal chef. He was born in a refugee camp after his parents fled Laos. He is one of the leading forces in elevating Lao cuisine. Douangdara is passionate about food education. Through his online work, he explores Lao food through his Youtube channel “Saeng’s Kitchen” and most recently his show with Delish called “Smelly Good.”  His philosophy around cooking is to make it approachable, educational, and fun! His goal is to use food as a catalyst to teach people about the history and culture of Laos.  

Find him on all social media accounts @saengdouangdara