59: Nam-Khao from On's Thai Kitchen

On's Nam-Khao hits the sweet spot between sour and spicy.

On's Nam-Khao hits the sweet spot between sour and spicy.

When top-notch Thai salads come into question, laab, the tripe-laden traditional favorite, immediately springs to mind. But it's only the tip of the iceberg as far as Thai salads go. On's Thai Kitchen serves a decent-sized selection, and the star of the show, Nam-Khao, aims to knock the beloved laab off its pedestal.

See also: 60: Table-Side Caesar Salad from the Salt Cellar


On's is the gold standard of Thai food in the Twin Cities, a shrine to spice. One bite of Nam-Khao is a bit like taking a sweet bong rip. It produces a blissful high that distorts and slows down the thought process -- you might find it difficult to think while becoming one with the mind-numbing spice and redolent sourness.

At first, the salad appears underdone, thanks to the very pink sour pork sausage. No worries -- the pork is fully cooked. It adds a piquancy that ties together the other ingredients and is a perfect foil for the lime vinaigrette. The dressing in turn offsets the spicy rice, making it palatable rather than red hot, even at the highest spice level. And what sets Nam Khao apart from similar salads is the addition of coconut. The fruit's sweet nuttiness adds crunch to the texture and balances out the smokiness of the meat.

Pro tip: Scoop up the salad with the lettuce leaves decorating the side of the plate. Using your fork will make you look like a n00b, plus this technique coats the lettuce with the sauce and adds a bit of green to an otherwise meat-heavy meal.

Coming in under $10, On's Nam-Khao is the perfect salad if you're in your salad days -- or even if you're living high on the hog.

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