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Authentic Naem Khao – Thai and Lao Crispy Coconut Rice Salad

Learn how to make a delicious, flavorful dish for authentic naem khao, which is a coconut rice salad that is one of the most beloved dishes at family gatherings.

Naem Khao is a crispy coconut rice salad with crispy and chewy textures balanced with sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. This very popular dish can often be found in food carts in the streets of Thailand and Laos.

Naem Khao (and it’s many names) is one of my family’s most treasured recipes and one of the top favorite dishes as well. Naem Khao is a must try at least once in your lifetime.

There are so many flavors and textures that Naem Khao, a Lao Crispy Rice Salad offers. It is a must try at least once. 

Anyone who has tried this explosion of goodness will salivate just thinking about the crispy rice that melds with the salty tartness of the lime dressing surrounded by the spongy deliciousness of the sour pork sausage. Added into this glorious mixture are aromatic mint herbs and roasted peanuts.

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

For anyone lucky enough to have tried this in a western Thai or Lao restaurant, you are considered one of the few that are fortunate enough to have a restaurant in the United States otherwise you would have had to go to a Thai or Lao party to have this served.

Word to the wise: This is a highly addictive dish. You might just get one bowl and make an agreement with yourself when you’ll stop before taking a bite.

In this post, I’m going to share with you all about the flavor and texture profile of Naem Khao, where it originated, and my favorite recipe for making Naem Khao at home. x

All About Naem Khao and The Flavor Profile

Naem Khao is a very popular and infamous dish that is popular in both Thailand and Laos and are prevalent in street vendor carts in both countries.

What is Naem Khao Salad?

Naem Khao is a Lao and Thai rice dish that is made from deep fried red rice croquettes that are then crushed and added into a mixture that includes Som Moo, fresh herbs, lime juice, fish sauce, grated coconut, and chopped peanuts.

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

What does Naem Khao taste like?

Naem Khao is made with deep-fried crispy rice croquette balls that are shredded, with some regional variations that include curry paste, and various flours. It has incredibly stimulating textures and flavors.

The rice tastes like crispy cereal in texture.  The sour pork sausage, referred to as Som Moo, is lean raw pork meat that has been fermented with  shredded pig skin to give it a light, yet chewy texture. Chilli flakes and extra fried chiles can be added for heat. 

It’s often served with lettuce as a palette cleanser.

Where did Naem Khao originate from?

Naem Khao originated from Laos. Lao cuisine adapted the sour pork sausage dish from Vietnam, which is an important ingredient in this dish. Naem Khao then gained popularity in Thailand when Laotians migrated to Bangkok for work. 

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

How do you eat Naem Khao?

Naem Khao is often served with large lettuce leaves. The lettuce leaves are spread apart and Naem Khao is spooned into the lettuce leaves, which are then wrapped into a small taco. You can then top it with helpings of fresh herbs and dried chili peppers. You then just take a bite of the lettuce with the Naem Khao inside.

What is Naem Khao made of?

Naem Khao is generally made of jasmine rice, Som Moo, grated coconut, sugar, fish sauce and peanuts.

What are other names for Naem Khao?

As with most translations of Thai and Lao dishes, because they are written in different script, the dishes are often translated phonetically. You’ll find variations of this dish referred to as:

  • Naem Khao Tod
  • Naem Khao Thadeau
  • Nem Khao
  • Nam Khao Salad
  • Yam Naem Khao Tod
  • Nam Clock
  • Naem Khao Thai Salad
  • Naem Khao Thawt
  • Nam Khun
  • Yam Naem Khao Tod

You’ll also find this recipe under different English translated dish names including:

  • Lao Fried Rice Ball Salad
  • Lao Fried Rice with Sour Pork Salad
  • Thai Fried Coconut Rice Salad
  • Thai Coconut Fried Rice with Sour Pork Salad
  • Thai Coconut Fried Rice Salad

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

What does Naem Khao Mean?

Naem refers to the sour pork. Khao refers to pork.

Regional Recipe Variations of Naem Khao

Both Lao and Thailand have their own versions of Naem Khao. The differences between Lao and Thai food in general are that Thai food takes the flavor profile to another level generally with more curry and colorful vegetables. There are various regional varieties with different amount of herbs and sliced shallots.

The common ingredients between Lao and Thai versions of Naem Khao, coconut crispy rice salad, is rice, freshly grated coconut, Som Moo, sugar or palm sugar, mint, hot mint, onion, and peanuts.

Lao Version of Naem Khao

The Lao version of Naem Khao includes pickled garlic and the use of regular granulated sugar.

Thai Version of Naem Khao

The Thai version of Naem Khao includes adding red curry, kaffir lime leaves, red bell pepper, palm sugar, and ground pork. It’s the additional flavors and ingredients that make Naem Khao stand out.

About My Version of Crispy Coconut Salad from Thailand and Laos

Is Naem Khao hard to make?

The hardest part about making Naem Khao would be frying up the rice balls. However, this can be remedied by making and frying the rice ahead of time. In addition. Som Moo can be purchased from an Asian grocer premade, which saves you a lot of time.

My Version of Naem Khao – Crispy Coconut Salad

My variation of this recipe includes very SIMPLE ingredients. I’ve tried to leave out some of the more complex ingredients, but still give you an amazing flavor profile. My kids and their kids absolutely love this version. It leans more towards the Lao version than the Thai version, which I think is way better anyway!

With that said, this is a multi-step, multi-component recipe that takes longer to make than most Southeast Asian dishes.

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

Asian Grocery Store List for Naem Khao

Mint

Buy mint in Asian grocers, you’ll get more bang for your buck.

naem khao ingredient mint

Hot Mint

This has a variation of names including Vietnamese Coriander, Cambodian Mint, Laksa, Cambodian Cilantro. This herb has a very narrow leave with a dark arrow.

naem khao ingredient hot mint

Pickled Garlic

You’ll find this in the pickled section probably by Kim Chi and other pickled vegetables.

pickled garlic

Sour Pork Sausage (Som Moo)

This will be in the refrigerated section, generally near the front. It’s considered a snack, so you’ll find it near the registers like you would soda and other refrigerated snack goods. You can substitute Naem by using deli ham cut into cubes or just using cooked ground pork and adding 3 cloves of garlic.

naem khao ingredient som moo sour pork sausage

Fresh Coconut or Frozen Ready-to-Use Grated Coconut

You can save yourself time having to grate fresh coconut by buying frozen, ready to use grated coconut. However, you can also just buy a fresh coconut if you don’t want to make a special trip to the store.

naem khao ingredient coconut grated

Tips and Tricks Before Making Naem Khao

Choosing Coconuts for Naem Khao

If you love the taste of coconut, choose a more brown/mature coconut for my flavor because the meat is thicker and more fibrous. If you want a more subtle hint of coconut, choose a white young coconut as it wil have more water and the meat is more gelatinous.

Adding Flavors

Again, my version of Naem Khao is authentically Lao. That’s not to say that you can’t add in other ingredients from the Thai version to pick and choose to make it your own. If you want more protein, add in cooked, ground pork. If you want more flavor in the rice, add two tablespoons of red curry paste before rolling the rice croquettes. If you want more color and crunch, add chopped red bell peppers. If you love lime, chop up some kaffir lime leaves and add them in.

Crunchy Fresh Onions

Naem Khao’s uniqueness is due to the various types of textures inside this dish. For onion and shallots, I would recommend getting a bowl of ice water ready before you slice the onion. When you slice the onion, add it to the bowl of ice water. Drain and dry it well before incorporating into the salad. This will allow the Naem Khao to have that extra crunch that makes this dish stand out.

Preparing Rice

When preparing the Jasmine rice, you should prepare it on the drier side instead of having a ton of moisture. Trust me on this. Use less water when making your rice for this dish.

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

How to Make Authentic Laos Naem Khao Recipe

Ingredients for Lao Naem Khao

Rice Balls

  • 3 cups of jasmine rice, cooked
  • 1 whole coconut, freshly grated
  • cooking oil

Salad Mixture

  • 2 cups of Lao sour pork sausage, Som Moo, shredded into bite size pieces
  • 3 pickled garlics, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 3 green onion, chopped finely
  • 1 cup of cilantro, chopped finely
  • ½  cup of hot mint, chopped finely
  • ½ cup of regular mint, chopped finely
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts

Garnish

  • Fresh vegetable to serve
  • Fried dry chilli (optional)
  • Lettuce leaves

Instructions for Making Laos Coconut Rice Salad

Slice the onion and shallots thinly. Let them soak in a ice water bath while preparing the rest of the meal.

Grate the coconut. Put in a large bowl.

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

Add the coconut in a large bowl. Add the rice. Using your hands, mix the coconut and rice together.

Roll the mixture to form 2-inch rice ball croquettes. 

Heat up the cooking oil in a pot or pan.

Beat two eggs and a large bowl. Dip the balls into the egg mixture. Then, drop the balls into the cooking oil.

Allow the balls to turn a dark amber brown color. Deep fry until crispy, crunchy, and golden. Remove and set on paper towel to drain excess oil.

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

Once cooled, break apart the rice balls and add into a larger bowl.

Drain the onion and the shallots.

Make sure you tear the pork sausage up into small pieces. You can use a knife too, but the traditional method is tearing.

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

In the large bowl, add in the onion, shallots, sour pork sausage, pickled garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, cilantro, hot mint, regular mint.

naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad

Top with peanuts. Serve with Lettuce, dry chilli, and other fresh vegetables.

Preserving Naem Khao Recipe

Naem Khao can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 days. It can then be served chilled.

It should not be frozen. 

Serving Naem Khao

Nam Khao is generally served with lettuce leaves and a variety of different herbs like hot mint, mint, basil, and perilla. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Naem Khao

What kind of rice is needed for Naem Khao?

Naem Khao uses Jasmine rice. You can also substitute regular white rice.

Can I make Som Moo for Naem Khao?

Som Moo is one of the easiest dishes to make. This simple recipe for Som Moo requires a 3 day fermenting process, so if you have time to wait, you certainly can.

What can I substitute in place of Som Moo in Naem Khao?

While authentic Naem Khao requires using Som Moo, you can use deli ham sliced into small cubes as a substitute. However, you’ll lose the texture and tangy flavor that using Som Moo provides.

What is Som Moo?

Som Moo is a fermented pork sausage that is made from raw, lean pork meat. It’s cooked using curing salts, nutrates, and self-fermentation. It has a chewy, spongy texture and provides another level of flavor and texture for salads. It is also known as Lao Sour Pork sausage due to its high usage of garlic and tanginess provided by the fermentation process. Read more about Som Moo.

Summary About Naem Khao Recipe

Naem Khao is an absolutely legendary, delicious mixture of crunch, sour, and spice allows Som Moo and other salad flavors to come together for a balanced harmony of flavors. The generously seasoned salad is the ultimate favorite among native Thai and Lao, and hopefully yours in the future as well.

naem khao crispy coconut rice salad-1

Authentic Naem Khao - Crispy Coconut Rice Salad

Yield: 12
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Naem Khao is a crispy coconut rice salad with crispy and chewy textures balanced with sweet, salty, and spicy flavors. This very popular dish can often be found in food carts in the streets of Thailand and Laos.

Ingredients

Rice Balls

  • 3 cups of jasmine rice, cooked
  • 1 whole coconut, freshly grated
  • cooking oil

Salad Mixture

  • 2 cups of Lao sour pork sausage, Som Moo, shredded into bite size pieces
  • 3 pickled garlics, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 3 green onion, chopped finely
  • 1 cup of cilantro, chopped finely
  • ½  cup of hot mint, chopped finely
  • ½ cup of regular mint, chopped finely
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts

Garnish

  • Fresh vegetable to serve
  • Fried dry chilli (optional)
  • Lettuce leaves

Instructions

  1. Slice the onion and shallots thinly. Let them soak in a ice water bath while preparing the rest of the meal.
  2. Grate the coconut. Put in a large bowl.
  3. Add the coconut in a large bowl. Add the rice. Using your hands, mix the coconut and rice together.
  4. Roll the mixture to form 2-inch rice ball croquettes. 
  5. Heat up the cooking oil in a pot or pan.
  6. Beat two eggs and a large bowl. Dip the balls into the egg mixture. Then, drop the balls into the cooking oil.
  7. Allow the balls to turn a dark amber brown color. Deep fry until crispy, crunchy, and golden. Remove and set on paper towel to drain excess oil.
  8. Once cooled, break apart the rice balls and add into a larger bowl.
  9. Drain the onion and the shallots.
  10. In the large bowl, add in the onion, shallots, sour pork sausage, pickled garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, cilantro, hot mint, regular mint.
  11. Top with peanuts. Serve with Lettuce, dry chilli, and other fresh vegetables.

Notes

Naem Khao can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 days. It can then be served chilled. It should not be frozen. 

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 374Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 754mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 2gSugar: 18gProtein: 13g

Other Southeast Asian Recipes from Laos You Might Like

Here are some additional authentic and delicious Laos recipes that you will love:

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naem khao recipe crispy rice coconut salad  

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