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Easy family favourites with Dominique Woolf: Thai Crispy Rice Salad

by Dominique Woolf

published on 18 August 2022

I love a good ‘food moment’. That wonderful revelation when you try something new and unknown that blows your socks off and makes you remember why you fell in love with food. My auntie’s simple yet incredible tamarind sauce was one, as was Nobu’s Black Cod Miso. I first tried the latter over twenty years ago and had never encountered miso until that dinner. I was spellbound. This Thai Crispy Rice Salad is one of those outstanding moments.

Several years ago, my husband and I visited Thai restaurant Supawan in King’s Cross, having read rave reviews. I wish I could bottle the smell of the place – so unmistakably Thai it transported me back to childhood. Food, for me, is as much about pleasure and joy as adventure and discovery, and what I loved about the menu was the fact so much of it was unfamiliar to me. 

Their Thai Crispy Rice Salad – or yum khao tod – was superb. So good in fact, that we immediately ordered a second bowl despite numerous dishes already on the table. The combination of elements came together in unity to create a celebration of textures and flavours I had never experienced in one mouthful. 

This recipe is my attempt at recreating that dish. Cooked rice is coated in a little Thai red curry paste and cornflour, then lightly fried until crispy. Once cool it is broken up and combined with a zingy Thai dressing, aromatic mint and coriander, thinly sliced onion, and crunchy peanuts. Believe me when I say it is incredible.

When I was gathering recipes for The Great Cookbook Challenge, I knew I wanted to showcase lesser-known Thai dishes, and this instantly made the list. Perfect served as part of a feast, it was exactly what I needed for the final challenge where we had to make six dishes for a panel of judges and industry experts. Much to my relief, it was a hit and received glowing compliments.

This mighty salad is easy enough to put together midweek but is also a bit of a showstopper and will wow your guests when entertaining. You can easily upscale the quantity and prepare most of it in advance, then add the dressing just before serving. If you are a fan of Thai flavours then this is a must-try!

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Dominique Woolf

Thai Crispy Rice Salad

Preparation time: 15 minutes. Cooking time: 15 minutes (plus rice cooking).

Ingredients (serves 2)

200g cooked jasmine rice, cooled (approx. 80g uncooked weight of jasmine or basmati rice)
½ tbsp Thai red curry paste
3 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp neutral oil, for frying

For the dressing:
3 tbsp lime juice (approx. 2 limes)
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1½ tbsp fish sauce
1 red chilli (use bird’s-eye if you like it hot), finely chopped

For the salad:
½ a small red onion, very thinly sliced
A small handful of mint leaves, shredded
A small handful of coriander, shredded
50g salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Method

Mix the rice with the curry paste and a good pinch of salt and combine well. Stir in the cornflour, ensuring each grain is coated.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Add the rice in a thin layer and press down. Leave to cook for around 5–7 minutes, or until a golden crust forms. Gently turn over and repeat on the other side. You may need to add a drizzle more oil. It doesn’t matter if it breaks up, but you do want to try and make sure you have as much crust as possible.

Remove the rice from the pan and leave to cool.

In the meantime, make the dressing. Combine all the ingredients, making sure the sugar is dissolved.

Put the rice into a large serving bowl and break any larger pieces into chunks. Pour over the dressing and mix through the salad ingredients. Eat immediately.

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Dominique Woolf

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