Yes, you should be singing the title of this post to the tune of Haddaway’s 1993 hit, “What is Love?” Come on, don’t fight it…just embrace the natural flow. A montage of songs plays in my head constantly, kind of like a “life soundtrack,” usually with made-up lyrics. I also quote songs in regular conversation. Remember the post I like big buns, and I cannot lie? That was not an isolated occurrence. Now that you have learned this Noony factoid, I no longer have to hold back.
Nam is the subject of my current one-hit wonder, more specifically Nam Khao, a Lao crispy rice salad served in lettuce wraps. My sister-in-law and I bond over our mutual love for this dish. I would eat it every day if I could.
Rather disappointingly, this post is not going to teach you how to make Nam. I have watched Mom do it, and her explanations are very vague. I could probably attempt the recipe, but why should I when I have a stash in the freezer?
I will tell you this: Nam starts with cooked rice mixed with red curry, some other seasonings, and grated coconut. My mom uses a secret alternative to coconut, which I think I’ve figured out but can’t divulge because it’s not my secret to tell. Plus, there is a chance I could be wrong. In any case, it makes the texture so interesting that you can’t stop eating.
The rice is formed into balls and deep fried, although Mom has been baking hers recently. When it’s time to eat, the balls are broken up and mixed with som moo, or fermented sour pork. Mom stuffs her version with enough garlic cloves to kill Dracula from 90 yards. I don’t eat pork so sometimes I substitute with grilled fish or shrimp. It’s good all on its own though.
The Nam mixture is wrapped with lettuce and a variety of herbs. You dip the delicious little envelope in naam chim. The other day, when I was desperate for food and came up with a spring roll salad to make iceberg lettuce more palatable, the food guru Angie suggested that if I added a sauce like nuoc cham instead of salad dressing, it would be sort of like a deconstructed lettuce wrap.
And so I give you Nam Salad (which may or may not be redundant)! I didn’t have any herbs but it was still pretty good.
I also came up with an alternate title and intro for this post. It goes like this:
What’s in a Nam?
What’s in a Nam? that which we call a crispy salad
By any other name would taste as delicious;
So Nam would, were it not Nam call’d
Retain that dear perfection which it owes
Without that title…
And that, my friends, is how you butcher Shakespeare. I said good day!