Yam Naem Khao Tod
Our first month's food discovery is about a dish called Yam Naem Khao Tod (ยำแหนมข้าวทอด)! It is a salad that will certainly liven up your taste buds!
In street food vendors all over Thailand, you will see Khao Tod (ข้าวทอด), crispy deep fried rice balls sitting in the window of their small food cabinet. The rice balls have a hint of red curry about them as well. These are broken up and mixed with the wonderfully sour protein element in the dish.
Naem (แหนม) is a raw, lactic acid fermented pork sausage. The sourness of the sausage comes from the addition of cooked sticky rice which ferments inside the sausage. It is a dry sausage which has a pale reddish pink colour. Naem often is fermented with some thinly sliced pork skin, for texture.
As well as Naem and Khao Tod, salad ingredients like coriander, thinly sliced ginger, onions, spring onions or chives are added, roasted peanuts with the skin on, as well as very thinly sliced pork skin which has been boiled until it is soft and gelatinous. The salad is then sprinkled with a generous spoonful of roasted and ground dry red chilli and it's ready to dress. The dressing is a simple one of lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and you have a fresh salad to die for. It is served simply with cabbage, Thai basil and betel leaves. There is crunch from the broken up crispy rice balls as well as the peanuts, there is a wonderful gelatinous mouthfeel from the boiled pig skin, there is the ginger kick as well as beautiful fresh herbs and vegetables and a nice amount of tang from both the Naem and the lime juice, balanced with fish sauce, sugar and the bite of chilli. This really is a seriously delicious salad.
At Feast Thailand, we were first introduced to Naem last year during a food discovery trip to Hua Hin. We then experienced it in the salad described above and immediately fell in love with it and we hope you will too.
Be sure to ask for it by name, especially if you are in a NorthEastern (Isaan) restaurant.