A hub fo the local Lao community
When Bounneung and Sengdeuane Insixiengmay opened Kitchener’s Lao-Thai Super Store in 1991, in many ways, they couldn’t have been farther from their homeland. In Laos, they lived their lives against the backdrop of war. It was a reality they left about a decade earlier, with Sengdeuane’s brother, by crossing the Mekong on a tire and landing in Thailand.
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David Insixiengmay's Nam Khao
Some advance work is required, here. You need to have cooked and cooled jasmine rice and plain cooked ground pork before you start making this crispy rice salad. When you’re ready, it’s really quite simple: Spice the rice before forming balls that are then deep fried. Let them cool, break them up and mix in cured meat, nuts and fresh herbs. Wrap a spoon or two of the salty, herbal, sweet, and faintly hot filling in lettuce leaves to enjoy the contrasts between crispy, chewy, and soft.
- 1 L steamed jasmine rice, cooled, (Thai Peacock brand, preferably)
- 250 g ground pork, cooked and cooled
- peanut oil, or another oil appropriate for deep frying
- 30 ml light soy sauce
- 30 ml oyster sauce
- 30 ml red curry paste (imported from Thailand, preferably)
- 15 ml siracha (Thai preferably)
- 2 eggs
- 10 ml salt, optional, to taste
- 5 ml black pepper
- 15 ml minced coriander stem
- 3 shallots, thinly sliced
- 125 ml shredded fresh or unsweetened desiccated coconut
- 575 g som moo (also known as fermented or sour pork), chopped, (1 package)
- 125 ml roasted or fried peanuts
- 1-2 fresh or thawed makrut lime leaves (not dried), thinly sliced OR the zest of one lime (see notes)
- A handful of chopped coriander leaves
- a few dried chillies
- lettuce leaves, such as butter or iceberg, washed and separated
- lime wedges for squeezing
- Heat a tall-sided pot filled halfway with oil to 190 C (375 F). Line a cookie sheet with two layers of paper towels and place a cooling rack over top. As the oil heats, beat eggs with soy sauce, oyster sauce, curry paste, siracha, salt (if using), and pepper. Set aside.
- Combine coconut, minced coriander stems, and shallots and set aside.
- Mix ground pork and rice, distributing the pork evenly, and breaking up large clumps of rice. Add the coconut mixture and combine well. Pour over the spiced egg mixture and, use your hands to mix well, ensuring all the rice is well coated.
- Scoop a half-cup of the mixture and shape into balls by squeezing tightly with both hands, to keep them together when frying. You’ll get 12-13 balls from this recipe.
- When the oil has come to temperature, carefully place two or three balls in the oil, ensuring they don’t touch and the pot is not overcrowded. Cook until they are coppery-brown in colour (about 2-3 minutes per batch). Remove to the prepared rack to drain any excess oil. Fry the remaining balls, being sure to let the oil return to temperature before adding the next batch. Let rest until cool enough to handle.
- Break the balls into a rubble of bite-sized and smaller pieces. Add som moo, peanuts, lime leaves or zest and coriander leaves and mix well.
- To serve: Tip onto a dish and scatter chillies over top. Serve with crisp lettuce leaves.
If the balls fall apart in the fryer, use a fine-meshed strainer to out lift the grains and drain on paper towels. While you’ll lose the contrast between the soft and crisp rice, the dish is still fine. A version of this recipe appeared in my profile of David Insixiengmay of Kitchener’s Lao-Thai Super Store for my World of Food column for Grand Magazine (March-April 2020).