Thai street food : Yam Naem Khao tod (fried rice ball salad)


Nam khao tod is something we discovered in Vientiane, Laos entirely by accident, I ordered out of curiousity, with an “I want what he’s having” kind of mentality. I had no idea what I was about to eat, but drawn in by the arancini like rice balls on the shelf of the street cart.

It’s something I’ve since seen in Laos, and also in the north eastern Thai province of Isaan and made myself a tonne of times because it’s awesome.

The arancini-like rice balls are flavoured with curry paste and deep fried and left to cool before being used to order.

When you order a serve, the lady will take one of the precooked balls, and smash it up, mixing it with raw red onion, fresh chilli, lime juice, fish sauce, green beans, coriander, scallions or spring onions, peanuts and naem – fermented sour pork – in her mixing bowl. In Laos we found it included shredded coconut and mint.

The end product is essentially a cold rice salad, with flecks of crunchy, crispy rice that became golden from the fryer and spicy, sour flavours.

In the Isaan region it’s customary to serve spicy dishes with some raw cabbage and a few herby leaves to help offset the chilli. I like to eat this with a couple of sticks of carmelised barbecued pork sticks known as muu ping. The sweetness works really well with the spicy sour flavours of the rice.

In Laos, nam khao is often eaten as an appetiser, with the rice wrapped up in a lettuce leaf cup.

Useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy’  – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Aroy – delicious
Mai Sai Prik Khap/khaa – no chilli (M/F)
Sai tung – take away (put in a bag)
Pai sed – special, as in the large size in at a foodcourt.
Tow rai? – how much. 


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