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Crispy Rice Salad with Cucumbers and Herbs

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This crispy rice salad is my new favorite salad—I do not think I have ever loved one as much.

 

First of all, there are an abundance of herbs (mint, cilantro, shallot, and cucumber) and papery thin vegetables. Put in extra, extra, extra!).

Secondly, there is an impressive heap of clumpy fried golden curry jasmine rice. The outside is golden and crisp, while the inside is soft and slightly chewy, allowing the flavorful lime, garlic, and salty vinaigrette to seep in. the mere thought of it makes me drool.

 

Without any additional protein, I can hurl some crushed peanuts at this thing and be completely content. However, I would suggest the air fryer chicken or the air fryer salmon here if you are the type of person who likes to add some extra protein to the mix (you know what I am going to say!). Both are excellent, and we have done both.

This salad is a spin on Nam Khao, a Laotian appetizer salad where the rice is broken up and served on a platter with lettuce cups after being fried into balls with fermented sausage. Since I had a taste of this at Hai Hai about a year ago, I have been considering making it myself. It was excellent. Then, just like clockwork, Molly Yeh uploaded a video to her channel showing how to make crispy rice in an air fryer! Brilliant. And that is how we ended up here, ready for summer 2024 with a whole new obsession with salad.

 

Get your herbs and dressing ready.

Blend the dressing and finely chop the salad ingredients. I enjoy slicing the shallots and cucumbers with a mandoline.

 

Stir the curry paste into the rice.

Combine the rice, red curry paste, and a small amount of oil. I prefer the texture of the air fryer to be somewhat sticky and wet, allowing it to be squeezed into loose chunks. In order to give the rice some life if it is dried out or has been sitting around for a few days, I might add a tablespoon or two of water and possibly some cornstarch.

 

Place the rice in the air fryer in a lump.

Indeed, clump it. Simply arrange the sticky rice in the air fryer in a single layer. You do not want every single grain of rice to be separated, but they also do not have to be balls. Simply stuff it in there.

 

Air-fry the rice!

I cook it for about 8 minutes at 420 degrees until the edges are crispy and golden brown! (If you do not own an air fryer, the notes include alternative options.) Notice how it forms clusters in a way? Once it is finished, transfer rice chunks to your salad bowl! It will appear as follows:

 

Toss It Out!

Mix the rice and vegetables with the dressing.

You have finished! Tastes great!

Really? I think this may be my all-time favorite salad.

Crispy Rice Salad Featuring Herbs and Cucumbers

It makes two large salad servings (but you will need extra dressing to serve it again).

Overview

Crispy-fried red curry rice, a bed of paper-thin vegetables, a sprinkling of herbs, and a vinaigrette with a hint of lime and garlic. I want to eat nothing but this crispy rice salad right now!

 

Ingredients

 

The Very Excellent Dressing:

a 1/2-inch knob of fresh ginger or a spoonful of ginger paste (note 1)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons avocado oil or another neutral oil
1/4 cup lime juice (3-4 small limes)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 tablespoon chili crisp (more for spicier)

Crispy Rice Salad:

2 cups cooked jasmine rice (note 2)
2 tablespoons avocado oil
2 teaspoons red curry paste
2 teaspoons cornstarch (optional)
half an English cucumber, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1 shallot, thinly sliced or minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 bunch mint, roughly chopped or torn (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
chili crisp to taste

Instructions

Dressing: Blitz everything up in a blender or food processor to make this SUPER yummy, punchy sauce.
Crispy Rice: Toss the rice in a bowl with the oil and curry paste. If it’s not sticking together when you squeeze it, add the cornstarch and get your hands wet to mix it again (this happens if the rice is pre-cooked or several days old). Squeeze it into loose, squishy chunks and transfer to the air fryer in a single layer. Air fry at 400 for 7-9 minutes, until golden and crisped. (See Note 3 for alternative methods; I find the air fryer to be fastest and most convenient!)
You’re Done! Yum! Break the crispy rice apart into little, golden, delightful chunks. Toss with about half of the dressing and however many veggies you want. Garnish it with some peanuts and chili crisp if you want. I mean, honestly. Wow. This is so good.

Notes

First note about the ginger: I just throw it in the blender with the other ingredients for the sauce, no need to chop or grate it. I’ve also used lemongrass paste here and it’s delicious! 

Note 2 on Cooking the Rice: Day-old cooked rice is used in the majority of crispy rice recipes. To be honest, I have not felt the need for this—maybe I am just lazy. This is how I cook rice in my Instant Pot: I put two cups of rinsed jasmine rice into two and a half cups of water, cook on high pressure for three minutes, and then let the pressure naturally release for fifteen minutes. Usually, I just make this, fry up some for the salad that day, and save the remainder for another salad later in the week.

Note 3a on Oven Method: You should “fry” the rice in the oven if you do not have an air fryer. Bake it near the top of the oven (closer to the heating element) at 425 degrees for about 8 to 10 minutes. It will remain chewy on the inside and get crispy on the outside.

Note 3b on Skillet Frying: While you can fry this rice in oil in a skillet, I do not recommend it because: a) it gets messy; and b) you need to start with much drier rice in order for it to crisp up. It is best to use day-old rice, which should be fried until golden and crispy in about 1/4 cup of neutral oil. To make sure the rice is sufficiently dry to fry well, some recipes even suggest drying it out in the oven. This is a deal-breaker for me. Too many stages in one go. Haha. You may find that you do not need as much dressing because your finished rice will probably be oilier than it would be with the other two methods.

 

Frequently Asked Questions for This Crispy Rice Salad!

Can I make crispy rice in the oven?

Yes. Coat the rice with the curry paste and oil, layer it in clumps on a baking sheet, and bake at 425 for 15 minutes on a rack towards the top of the oven. It’ll get a dried, crisped exterior, but the inside of the clumps will be chewy and soft. Delicious.

Can you use brown rice instead of jasmine rice?

I tested this with brown rice, and yes, it worked well! It just needed a bit of the cornstarch (noted in the instructions of the recipe card) to help it stick together nicely.

Can you use basmati rice instead of jasmine rice?

Yes, but in our testing, it definitely didn’t clump as much, and it came out more as individual crispy grains vs. those crispy sticky clumps I love so much.

Do you feed this to your kids?

Not really. This is one that they’re not crazy about, so they get all the parts of the salad deconstructed! Peanuts, cucumbers, some mint leaves for sampling, and—their favorite—plain jasmine rice. 

Can you do this ahead of time?

It’s best to store everything separately and crisp up the rice just before serving. That said, I’ve kept it this way for some make-ahead lunches, and the rice texture gets a bit more chewy in the fridge, but I didn’t hate it. In fact, I still very much loved it.

Is crispy rice salad spicy?

The traditional Lao salad (nam khao tod) is a bit spicy as it often has both roasted and fresh chiles. But this version of a crispy rice salad is pretty mild, and if you want it to be more spicy, you can add more chili crisp or throw some chiles in the mix. My 5-year-old eats this and enjoys it!

What proteins go well with a crispy rice salad?

Crispy rice salad is delicious with shrimp, salmon, or chicken. Pulled chunks of rotisserie chicken are an easy go-to in our house. We also rely heavily on the air fryer chicken and air fryer salmon for a moment like this! We have an air fryer tofu recipe that is SO good, but I’m not sure it’s the right fit for this recipe just because it has more of a “fried” texture that feels like it would compete with the rice. I don’t know. If you’re vegetarian, you can try it and let me know. 

How can you make a crispy rice salad vegetarian?

The only thing in the salad that is not vegetarian is the fish sauce and (sometimes) the curry paste. I use Thai Kitchen red curry paste, which is naturally vegan. For a fish sauce sub, you could try making your own fish sauce. Soy sauce or coconut aminos would also be a possible substitute; it wouldn’t have the same flavor but would work in a similar way as the salty part of the dressing. You may need to dilute the dressing a bit if it’s too strong, depending on your specific soy sauce.

Is crispy rice salad gluten-free?

Yes, this recipe is gluten-free. You may want to confirm that your jasmine rice is certified gluten-free as there can be cross-contact contamination, and you may also want to check the label on the fish sauce and the curry paste just to confirm that these are gluten-free as it can vary from brand to brand. But all the other ingredients in the salad are naturally gluten-free.

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Ahmed Mainul

My name is Ahmed Mainul Mondal, I'm the founder of the hospitality career profile website. I'm writing blogs and news posts as per user preferences.

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