Happy New-ish Year! I'm back from my blogging holiday hiatus! It was filled with all the holiday parties and Capricorn birthdays, but I've been steadily cooking my way back to ya. There were some Hannukah doughnnut fails and some tasty-but-not-so-pretty birthday cheesecakes that weren't worth sharing here. Honestly, after a couple of months of holiday dessert recipe testing, I'm kinda over sweets. It's time for some real food. Some real real food.
It's taken me a while to share any Lao recipes, because I'm a lil' self-conscious about reppin' the best from my soul food. Though I consider myself to be Lao and proud, culturally, like most first-generation immigrants, I'm in between belonging to a place I've never seen and this place that I've known all my life but still sees me as other. I find myself asking Is this dish Lao enough? Would the Lao grandmas and aunts approve of it's authenticity? Or would they tell me to cut my herbs thinner and say Maybe you could be my daughter in your next life. (That's some Lao-Buddhist shade.)
I developed this recipe from taste and memory of the nam khao I grew up with. Memory of watching my mom machete open a mature, brown coconut to shred its meat. Cupping the rice with her palms to form plump discs. My brother and I impatiently burning our mouths on steaming-hot fried rice balls. This is my nam khao, first-generation immigrant nam khao, with ketchup in it, because my parents came over in the 70s, and my dad likes it that way :)
serves 6-8 ppl (Feel free to halve this. We normally just do it big. It's kind of a party meal.)
6 cups cooked Jasmine rice
2 cups shredded coconut (Fresh is ideal but labor intensive. You can find frozen shredded coconut at Asian grocery stores. Don't use the dried shredded coconut traditionally used for baking.)
3 tablespoons red curry paste
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons ketchup
6 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
9 oz nam (If you're like me and don't have 2 weeks to ferment your own sausage, you can find nam/sour pork sausage at Lao and some Southeast Asian grocery stores. Shoutout to Mekong Rainer!)
3 limes, divided
1 cup green onions, finely sliced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup mint, chiffonaded
2 tablespoons toasted red chili flakes
3 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped
2 heads of lettuce, for wrapping
half a bunch each of mint and cilantro, for the wraps
Place the cooked Jasmine rice in a large bowl. With your hands, gently mix in the coconut, red curry paste, garlic, ketchup, and 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce. Once evenly distributed, mix in the egg, making sure to coat all of the rice.
Using your palms, cup about 3/4 cup of rice, pressing firmly to form full, round discs. Place the shaped rice balls on a large plate.
In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat your frying oil on medium high heat. The oil is fry-ready once a chopstick placed in the oil forms bubbles around it. I keep a thermometer in the oil as well, but it's only really to make sure my oil doesn't drop below 325 or above 375. The temperature will rise and drop throughout the cooking, so I don't get obsessed with the actual temp.
Place a baking sheet lined with a few layers of paper towels near your stove.
Once the oil is ready, place 3 rice balls in the oil. Fry for about 2 minutes on each side or until they are a reddish, medium brown and develop a firm and crisp crust. Place cooked rice balls on the lined baking sheet to cool. Repeat in batches of 3 or 4 until all of the remaining rice balls are cooked. Let the rice balls cool for 5 minutes.
In an extra large mixing bowl, crumble the rice balls. Crumble your sour pork on top of your rice mixture.Add the green onions, chopped cilantro, chiffonaded mint, 5 tablespoons of fish sauce, red chili flake, and the juice of the 2 limes. Stir to evenly combine. Transfer to a large serving dish.
Serve topped with toasted peanuts (and more red chili flake, if you're a champ), alongside a platter of lettuce, herbs and lime slices for wrapping.