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

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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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Kuang Si Waterfalls : Luang Prabang

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We had such a great time in Laos, it surprised us in every way.

We expected it to be a lesser event surrounded by Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia but we were so happy to discover Laos, and especially Luang Prabang.  The food was delicious and apart from getting REALLY bored with people relentlessly trying to sell me drugs in Luang Prabang, Laos people were friendly.

We spent four days in Luang Prabang, and could easily have spent ten more. I loved the pace of life, the fact there is little to do and mostly that you don’t have to worry about being run over by a moped every five seconds like the rest of South East Asia. The population is only 50’000 and they’re all too busy running guest houses and awesome restaurants to be playing Carmageddon (I really hope someone else played this game!) on the streets.

One of the highlights of our trip to Luang Prabang was an afternoon at Kuang Si waterfalls. 

Firstly, it’s beautiful and its relaxing and superfun, but if anyone thinks you’re headed off to your own private little hideaway you’re going to quite disappointed, It’s pretty busy!

The water is so clean, so blue and also so cold! It’s also full of little bitey fish  which took great interest in my scabby knees from when I fell down off the kerb outside Chiang Mai train station the week before.

It’s a great way to spend an afternoon and there’s even a rope swing  which always makes for a great spectator sport.

** Top Tips : Watch out for the moss around the busy pool with the rope swing, it is so slippery and don’t put your towel down, or sit on anything or you’ll end up with slimey mess all over your lovely stuff. We learn’t the hard way, twice.

We arranged for a shared minibus, it worked out pretty cheap, only downside was prearranged arrival and leaving times. we found two hours at the waterfalls to be plenty. You can also get there by tuk-tuk, hiring a moped or cycling. It’s a fairly long way, and anybody who cycles is pretty much crazy in my opinion.

You can also see my Luang Prabang gallery here.

Tickets!

Gallery

Laos food, a not very complete overview.

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So, our time in Laos has finished. We spent some time in Luang Prabang, and then headed down on the overnight bus to Vientiane. To be honest, Vientiane didn’t hold much for us, apart from the eating. A shout out has to be made to Aarto, the drunken Finnish guy, who fell through the glass door at our hostel and left blood and glass everywhere. That was impressive.

This is Laos food as we ate it.

Larp, rice soup and noodle soup have been covered, have a read.

In Luang Prabang we ate a couple of times in the ‘food alley’ at the market. The food was cheap and excellent quality, it was actually far better than our fancy restaurant meal. Expensively disappointing. Anyway, at the market we had a whole fish, stuffed with lemongrass. It had some amazing teriyaki style glaze on the skin too, which made it sweet and crispy. My mum always says she can’t eat anything with the head looking at her. I beg to differ, as long as the head doesn’t wriggle, and it’s well and truly dead I’m fine with that.

We also had barbecued pork pieces, with a sweet glaze on. like great big bits of extra tasty bacon, and green papaya salad. Quite often known as som tam but the Lao people call it tam mak hoong. The Laos version isn’t really any different, it has all the same ingredients; unripe papaya, lime, peanuts, chilli, palm sugar, fish sauce and a bit of tomato. Sometimes in Laos they will throw in a handful of green beans too. Spicy.

In Vientiane we had another of my favourite things so far. It was very simply described on the menu as rice, egg, vegetable (not fried). I only ordered it because I was watching the woman make it for someone else, and curiosity won.  Basically, it’s a cold rice salad. the rice is balled and fried and left to cool, when the salad is made the ball is broken down with peanuts, vegetables, lime, chilli, sugar, and green herbs. You get bits of crispy rice ball outside and, stodgy middle bits too. I couldn’t work out if coconut was used in the rice ball, or thrown into the salad; but it was definitely involved somewhere. If anyone knows what this is actually called please let me know.

Another trip out to eat involved larp (duck variety this time) and Laos style chicken leg AND thigh. The chicken was marinated, and griddled in a garlic lemongrass mix; and served with a mint and garlic dipping sauce.  Sauce, in Laos is known as jaew (with a suffix depending on the ingredients…) and a pot of sticky rice to mop up the juices.

We have had the obligatory barbecued meats, and spring rolls (generally, raw Vietnamese style but sometimes fried.. You never can tell) but the other thing worth a mention was bamboo stuffed with pork. It was OK, the pork was sort of steamed inside the bamboo but it was deep fried with an egg wash, and a bit too greasy for my liking.

Generally, in the UK; I’m not keen on pork.  I’ve eaten so much here that I’m generally concerned I might turn into some kind of swine hybrid.

On an alcoholic side note Beerlao is good, 5% generic fizzy beer taste. Beerlao dark is better, 6.5% less fizzy more flavour. I never got around to trying Beerlao gold, the dark lager was too nice.

Go to Laos, the food is awesome.

Laos street food : Khao piak khao (Rice soup)

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One of my favourite things about travelling is eating. Breakfast is usually something a bit different, depending on where you are. and  I’ve always grown up with toast or cereal, so I’m quite excited to be eating rice soup for breakfast.

Khao piak khao

Rice soup is really a congee, with a gelatinous meaty texture, with roasted pork meat topped with roasted garlic and fresh herbs.  There’s also all the trimmings to add to personal taste, chilli flakes, lime, Thai basil and mint. Lovely start to another day in Laos.

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