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.
Peanut oil, or another oil appropriate for deep frying
30 ml (2 tablespoons) soy sauce, light soy, preferably
30 ml (2 tablespoons) oyster sauce
30 ml (2 tablespoons) red curry paste (imported from Thailand, preferably)
15 ml (1 tablespoon) siracha (Thai preferably)
10 ml (2 teaspoons) salt, optional, to taste
5 ml (1 teaspoon) black pepper
15 ml (1 tablespoon) minced coriander stem
3 shallots, thinly sliced
125 ml (½ cup) shredded fresh or unsweetened desiccated coconut
575 g (1 package) som moo (also known as fermented or sour pork), chopped
125 ml (½ cup) 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 lettuce or iceberg lettuce, 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.