If you have never had a Lao Crispy Rice Salad, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever tasted before and you need to try it because my words just won’t do it any justice. Crunchy, chewy rice with a well balanced tart, salty, spicy and sweet combination of toppings and fresh herbs.

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Have you ever had one of those days when you just shouldn’t have got out of bed? Today was that day for me.


The day started with taking the dogs out. Being half asleep, I wasn’t even aware it was raining. Not a big deal, you know – unless you’re walking on a sheet of ice.


WHAM! ..goes my kaboose against the icy ground…but that’s no biggy, it’s Canada after all and this is a very normal occurrence and should happen to a Canadian – at least 20 times in their life time right?


Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)


Once I get back home,  I’m pumped! I’m making my fave ultimate Laotian comfort food! Nam Khao!

As I’m making the sticky rice, I managed to:

  • grab a very hot metal colander with my bare hands
  • throw the sticky rice up in the air from the excruciating pain
  • make a complete mess with most of the rice all over the stove, floor and ceiling
  • grab a towel to wrap around the colander to try to save what sticky rice I had left and *sniff sniff* what’s that smell?



Apparently I didn’t notice the towel was touching the flame of my gas stove and it went up in flames in my hands.


Yea, not kidding. Wow. Oh Joyce. Go back to bed.


Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)


Lao cuisine is quite rare around here and usually a hidden gem in the cuisine world, you might be familiar with it’s flavours if you’ve had Thai or Vietnamese foods. I’m here and very excited to tell everyone about their wonderfully flavourful dishes and will be creating a few more Lao dishes on the blog in the near future.


If you have never heard of Nam Khao, it is essentially fried rice balls broken up into bite sized pieces with a medley of fresh herbs, som moo (a fermented meat which I go into detail below), lime juice, fish sauce, hot sauce combined into a well balance of crunchy, chewy salty, sweet and tart salad. It’s nothing I have ever tasted before and a recipe that I will continue to make.


With Nam Khao, the most tedious part of it would be the crispy rice bit, but you can make a lot of it ahead of time and it can sit in the fridge for 3-4 days if properly covered. Once you are ready to make it, just take the ingredients out and throw it together and you will have a very sophisticated salad in a span of 5 mins and I promise you it will be worth every minute.




Most of these ingredients will be available at the asian supermarket.


Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)


Som moo! Some what? Som moo is a fermented sausage that is made with raw pork meat, pig skin and is fermented with curing salts and nitrates. The texture is chewy, think rubber bands. It sounds weird but it’s an very interesting mouth feel once you get used to it and it gives salads another dimension. The flavour is tart, salty, sweet, spicy and garlicky. Heavier on the tang side with a nice balance of sweet and very garlicky. This is also known as Nem Chua in Vietnamese cuisine.


Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)


If you can’t find som moo, this can be omitted. Although you will lose a bit of the texture and the awesome flavours it adds.


Traditionally, this recipe uses jasmine rice but for this recipe, I use sticky rice because I love the texture of the chewiness combined with the crispiness. You can substitute sticky rice for jasmine or long grain rice. If you are not using the sticky rice, then you don’t need to follow the steps below on steaming the rice and a regular rice cooker or pot will suffice.


Buying rice can be a daunting thing, there are many varieties out there and they all seem to look the same! When I buy sticky rice, I go for the ones that are called ‘glutinous rice’ or sometimes they are called ‘sweet sticky rice’ (don’t worry it’s not actually sweet!). Go for the ones made in Thailand and you’ll never be steered wrong. 🙂



The rice must be soaked ahead of time for a minimum of 4 hours.

For this recipe, I opted to put aside my steamer and try a different method that I learned from Food52. (Which by the way, is an absolutely wonderful food site with articles, recipes, a great community and lastly awesome tips and learnings.)


Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)


The article I tested was ‘The Best Way to Make Thai Sticky Rice (No Fancy Basket Required)‘ by Leela Punyaratabandu. I used the #3 method: with a Colander.

Did it work? It most certainly did! (Minus the brain fart of me grabbing the handle sans towel or oven mitten. The handle is hot! Wear protective gear before moving or touching it!)




Once you have the rice cooked, combine it with the lime leaves, red curry paste, fish sauce, sugar, garlic, shallots and egg and mix it well.

When you are rolling them into balls or ovals, they might come apart, that’s perfectly normal.

I found putting a bit of oil on your hands help from it sticking to your palms.

If you are using non-sticky rice, I would work on it when it is slightly warm so the rice has an easier time sticking together. If you are using sticky rice, it can be worked on when the rice is cool since the rice gets stickier when it is cooler.


Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)


Deep fry them at 350F (176C) until they are golden brown. (Approximately 3 minutes)




Here is the fun part! Toppings! The sky is the limit here. I have provided a few traditional toppings that I like to use but you can experiment and add what you think would taste amazing in it! The star of this salad is the crispy rice, so you really can’t go wrong with flavour pairings!


Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)


For the dressing, I used Nuoc Cham, which is a simple and flavourful dressing made with fish sauce, sugar, vinegar/lime juice, garlic and chillis.

You can also use a watered down soy, lime juice with a bit of maple syrup as an alternative dressing as well.


Tip #1 : Serve this as a lettuce wrap to switch up your style of salad! A different and more fun way to eat this.


Now, back to bed for me! 🙂

Follow us on Instagram and let us know if you make this recipe! We want to see too by using #pupswithchopsticks!



Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)


Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)

  • Author: Joyce | Pups with Chopsticks
  • Prep Time: 40 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 Servings
  • Cuisine: Laotian


A Lao crispy rice salad with crispy, chewy textures with a balance of sweet, tart, salty and spiciness.


Crispy Rice

Nuoc Cham Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 lime (juiced)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1-2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 red birdseye chili (sliced)

Salad Toppings

  • som moo (fermented meat sausage)
  • mint
  • basil
  • cilantro
  • fried onions
  • toasted peanuts
  • toasted rice powder (you can also make this yourself by toasting sticky rice grains and then blitzing it in a food processor or using mortar and pestle)
  • shallots (sliced and soaked in cold water to remove the raw bite)
  • green onions (chopped)
  • birdseye chili peppers
  • lime juice


Crispy Rice Balls

  1. Soak the sticky rice for a minimum of 4 hours. Drain water
  2. In a pot, bring water to a boil and pour the rice into a colander and set on top of the pot. Put the lid on and steam for 15 mins.
  3. After 15 minutes, turn the rice over in the colander so the other side can be steamed for 15 minutes. Steam rice until it is translucent. (Be careful, the colander is very hot!)
  4. Remove rice from the pot, put it into a bowl and cover with a towel for 15-30 minutes until warm and sticky.
  5. Add in the curry paste, lime leaves, garlic, shallot, sugar, fish sauce and egg and mix well.
  6. Set deep fryer to 350F (176C), or medium heat on a pot of oil on the stove.
  7. Create rice balls or oval patties with the rice mix. (Oil your hands so they don’t stick to your hands)
  8. Deep fry them for 3 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Set aside to cool.

Nuoc Cham Dressing

  1. Combine the sugar and the hot water first to melt it evenly into the water.
  2. Then add the remainder of the ingredients and put it in the fridge to cool

Putting the Salad Together

  1. Break up the rice balls and som moo and put into a bowl
  2. Add in the toppings and dressing and mix well
  3. Serve with lettuce leaves
  4. Eat with a spoon or wrapped in lettuce 🙂


  • Rice Balls can keep in the fridge in a well sealed container for 3-4 days. Use the rice balls cold to create the salad.


  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 341 kcal
  • Sugar: 11 g
  • Sodium: 1139 mg
  • Fat: 11 g
  • Carbohydrates: 37 g
  • Protein: 18 g

Keywords: nam khao, lao food

Disclaimer: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites, however I provide these links to make items easier to find if you cannot purchase this locally and I would never recommend anything I don’t own myself or highly recommend. I would prefer you buy your items locally if possible to support your local shops (and chances are they are cheaper locally as well!) 🙂

Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nem Khao)



23 thoughts on “Lao Crispy Rice Salad (Nam Khao)”

  1. Looks amazing, Joyce! I’ve never heard of som moo before 😮 I wouldn’t expect a fermented sausage to look so pretty though! Or maybe it’s your awesome photography skills :p

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! It’s the sausage, the colours really do stand out. I find that Laos food is always such a beautiful cuisine from all the fresh greens it uses! 🙂

  2. Hi Joyce! We love this crispy rice salad. Unfortunately it’s very difficult to find som moo here in Greece. Can we replace it with a plain pork sausage? Amazing photos as well 🙂

    1. Hi! Yes, I agree it is a bit difficult to find som moo but since the crispy rice is the star of the show I definitely think you can substitute the som moo! I would use a spicy flavourful sausage (chorizo or spicy italian maybe?) and a squirt of lime juice to give it the spicy & tart flavours! 🙂

  3. The crispy rice looks delicious. I love lime leaves and am always looking for ways to use them. Not sure I can get my head around pork flavoured rubber bands but pork does make everything better so…

    Your recipe for nuoc cham looks really good too. I’ve never tried rice wine vinegar in mine.

    1. Thank you Romain! 🙂 The lime leaves smell absolutely wonderful don’t they? 🙂 Pork flavoured rubber bands is definitely an acquired thing haha but you can easily substitute it with a very flavourful sausage like chorizo or spicy italian with a dash of lime to give it a similiar spicy, tart, salty flavour – you just lose a bit of the mouth feel but honestly the crispy rice steals the stage every time so you won’t even notice! I put rice wine vinegar in my nuoc cham because I find using just pure lime juice is too tart. I like it to be a balance of tart, sweet and salty so I add the lime last once I have it adjusted just right 🙂

  4. It looks amazing, Joyce! It sounds like you had a rough-go in the kitchen, but you prevailed and made this great recipe:) Everything looks and sounds so delicious! Thank you for introducing me to Nam Khao!

    1. Thanks Marie! 🙂 Yea the kitchen is usually a war zone by the time I’m done with it. I almost wished I had a personal dishwasher sometimes haha! 🙂 I’m happy you enjoyed this post! I was very happy and excited when I first tried Lao food and I knew I had to share this with everyone! 🙂

  5. Ahahahaha. I am so sorry to laugh, but I loved this story!!! The first time I ever set something on fire in my kitchen I shrieked like a banshee!! But I feel like it’s a badge of honor, right? You’re not a true cook until you’ve set something on fire??

    And those last two pictures, girl…. A+++. This crispy rice salad looks amazing and sounds like it would even pack well for lunches on-the-go!

    1. Oh I’m still laughing haha! I’m pretty sure I was shrieking like a banshee as well and trying to blow out the fire and making it bigger haha because DUH oxygen fuels fire?
      Woohoo, official badge of honor for me! 😀
      Thanks, and I’m glad you like it! Yes they can be packed for lunch easily! That’s one of the reasons why it was so awesome! 😀

  6. Joyce, I am seriously loving you more and more with every recipe you share. I absolutely LOVE Nam Khao, but I have zero idea how to make it at home. Kind of like I didn’t know how to make lotus root chips or crab spring rolls either– two other foods I eat a lot, but have never made. You are a genius! Keep the amazing recipes coming and my monthly “eat out” bill will be cut in half!

    1. YAY! I am so happy to hear I can help you in your kitchen!! One of the main reasons I love cooking is because it shrinks our wallets and we make food so much better at home with better ingredients and it’s cooked with love! 🙂

    1. Awesome!! 😀 You’re very welcome Jamie! I’m so happy to hear that I can help out in the kitchen 😀

  7. This dish is beautiful on it’s own but the way you describe the flavors makes me want to go shopping for the ingredients right now! Wonderful photos and excellent tips, thanks for another awesome recipe!

  8. I’m a bit late for this post, but I can relate to back to bed day! I wish though! My kids never let me sleep past 6:30 am! sigh! But on the high note….I love Laotian crispy rice salad. It is divine!!!

    1. Definitely my favourite food. Laotian food is so underrated, I wished more people would try it! 🙂 It’s amazing.

  9. I recently became obsessed with this rice after eating it at a Laotian restaurant. I really didn’t want to go through all the trouble of properly making it with the exact ingredients. So, I grabbed some leftover Chinese fried rice, threw in red curry paste, green onion, sugar, salt, garlic, red pepper flakes and fresh squeezed lime juice and fried it loose so the bottom got crispy. Took it off the heat and added salt and crushed peanuts and a little more lime juice. Used green leaf lettuce to make wraps. Allllmost as delicious as my favorite Laotian restaurant. I’m a vegetarian so the pork thing already wasn’t needed. This was a great and easy way to satisfy my craving even if it’s not very authentic or proper. I guess the secret is in that red curry paste.

    1. Aii! You are SO awesome Meenah!! 🙂 I also love this stuff and it’s so great to hear that using fried rice makes for a quick way to satisfy this craving – because I swear I can’t get enough of this stuff! I am definitely going to be doing this now! You rock.

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