If you are wondering where you can find khao khua, an elusive ingredient to popular Lao dishes, to make your favorite larb (minced meat salad) or nam jaew (chili dipping sauce) recipe, this post is here to help you find this amazingly delicious, and nutty flavored ingredient.
Khao khua is an amazing condiment and ingredient that is a staple in most Lao pantries. Even though it is very simple to make, it actually plays a very important role in acting as a thickener to marry the smoky, roasted flavors in larb and nam jaew.
In this post, the goal is to help you get familiarized with where you can find khao khua, the brand you should purchase, and a recipe for how you can make it at home yourself!
What exactly is khao khua?
Khao khua is a toasted-rice powder that is a staple in popular Lao and Northern Thai dishes. It is an ingredient that is used in popular recipes like larb (a minced meat salad) and nam jaew.
It has a delicious nutty flavor and adds texture to any dish.
How is khao khua made?
Khao khua is made by toasting uncooked sticky rice until it’s close to being burnt. After getting toasted, it is then grinded into a powder. You should definitely not make it with any other rice than sticky rice (also known as sweet rice).
What can I use as a substitute for khao khua?
If you are using it in authentic Lao dishes, there is not a substitute for this. This ingredient is what draws out the flavor of most authentic, Lao dishes. For this reason, there truly isn’t a substitute for this ingredient. While you can leave it out of dishes, you will be missing the enhanced flavor that only khao khua can provide to most authentic Lao dishes.
Where did khao khua originate?
Similar to most popularized Lao dishes, Thai restaurants often adopt not only Lao dishes, but also specific ingredients from Laos. Khao khua originated in Laos, and often was adopted by northern Thailand regions.
What is the shelf life of khao khau (rice powder) last?
When properly handled, Khao khua can be stored up to two months in an airtight container at room temperature.
What does khao khua actually mean in Laotian?
In Lao, khao means rice and khua means to toast and darken. There is actually not a word in this ingredient that describes the most important part, which is to pound the toasted rice into a course powder.
The words mean the exact same thing in Thai language. Lao and Thai are a very close in language. I would akin it to United States English versus British English. Lao language is more slang (United States) and Thai language is more proper (British English).
Where can I buy khao khua or rice powder?
You can purchase khao khua in most asian markets. Here’s an image of the brand I highly recommend if you really do not want to make your own:
Can I buy khao khua (rice powder) on Amazon?
Yes, definitely! You can purchase it right on Amazon here. I couldn’t find the exact brand I recommend on Amazon, so check out the image above for my favorite khao khua brand!
Related: Check out my post on how to navigate an Asian grocer for the first time!
Recipe for Authentic Thai and Lao Khao Khua
While this recipe is easy to follow, I would recommend making this outside on a stovetop grill because it will definitely make your place smell for a while!
There are recipes that include lime leaves along with lemongrass, but these recipes were adapted and are not true to authentic Lao khao khua.
Supplies to Make Khao Khua (Toasted Rice Powder)
stainless steel skillet
grinder OR mortar and pestle
3 cups of sticky rice (also known as sweet glutinous rice) – find on Amazon Here
Step by Step Instructions to Make Khao Khua
1. Bring your skillet (or wok) to medium high temperature.
2. Add in the sticky rice grains.
3. Using the spatula, continue moving the grains around until they become a toasty dark color, like shown below. Stir often until the rice is fragrant and medium brown to dark brown in color.
4. When the sticky rice grains are a deep, golden brown, turn off the heat and allow the grains to cool.
5. Place the toasted rice into a mortar and pestle (traditionally how Lao culture does it) or use a food processor to grind until a coarse powder forms.
6. Add into your Lao dish or store in an airtight container.
Khao khua is an important and indespensible ingredient to any Lao pantry. It provides that nutty flavor that you can find in dishes like the infamous larb gai!
If you are ready for some more Lao recipes, check out my easy sticky rice recipe that you can make at home!