Guest Editors

Andy Ricker's Yam Khai Dao (Fried Egg Salad)

November  4, 2013

This week's guest editor is JJ Goode, the writer behind Andy Ricker's new cookbook, Pok Pok. All week, he'll be sharing some of his favorite recipes from the book, and interviewing Andy about Thai cooking, and convincing us all to pick up a book and get in the kitchen.

Today, JJ kicks things off with an introduction and a fried egg salad.

Pok Pok  JJ and Andy

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Hi, Food52! 

I feel extremely lucky to have worked with Andy Ricker on his just-released first cookbook, Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand. I’m thrilled to be here to share a few of my favorite recipes from the book.

To me, the coolest thing about the food Andy cooks is that it isn’t his. He doesn’t riff on Thai flavors. He doesn’t experiment with kaffir lime and galangal. Instead, he has learned to systematically replicate the dishes he fell for during more than 20 years of traveling to Thailand. Having taken two trips with him to Thailand to eat the food that inspired his Pok Pok mini-empire, I can attest that his recreations taste virtually identical. 

When we started the long process of writing the book, he was understandably insistent that the recipes provide the same level of fidelity. That’s why they rarely include shortcuts and only occasionally offer substitutions. Part of my job involved cooking through the recipes -- the formal recipe testing was done by the lovely and talented Andrea Slonecker; I cooked the recipes again to make doubly sure they worked -- and for this I faithfully followed his instructions, combing Asian markets for fresh betel leaf and pounding pastes in a granite mortar. 

I learned that every ingredient he calls for is available in the U.S. -- online, in Asian grocery stores, at farmers markets, and at urbane supermarkets like Whole Foods, where in New York City at least, you can find not just lemongrass but also Thai chiles and fresh yellow turmeric root. And I learned that the results justify the effort, and that you really can cook real-deal kaeng hung leh (Northern Thai pork belly curry) at home. 

Even after we finally finished the book and my official responsibilities ended, I kept cooking, because I love this food. I gravitated toward the book’s simpler recipes. They’re simple not because Andy dumbed them down, but because they just happen to be simple to make. Thai food, much like Mexican food, has developed a reputation based on its most complex cooking and obscure ingredients. Yet for every curry and mole, there is a salad or salsa -- something that anyone can make for a weeknight dinner. I hope these these recipes will hook you and inspire you to tackle the book’s more involved dishes. 

If some of the recipes I share look long, that’s only because we decided that unfamiliar food and techniques deserve detailed instructions. Our goal is to help you make dishes so true to their Thai archetypes that not even Andy could tell the difference.

Andy Ricker's Fried Egg Salad on Food52

Yam Khai Dao (Fried Egg Salad) 

Thai salads are so damn tasty that we readily forgive them for not being particularly salad-like. A heap of warm squid doused in a mixture of chiles, fish sauce, and lime juice is light years away from a Caesar. Long eggplants charred on hot coals and tossed with hard-boiled egg, ground pork, and bright, spicy oil-less dressing is about as close as Thais get to a Cobb. 

Of course, as I learned while working with Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker, Thais don’t use the word “salad,” which is just the crude English translation for the diverse culinary category of Thai food called yam. (By the way, this category does not include “papaya salad,” but that’s another story.) And after eating about a thousand examples of yam with him in Thailand, each less like salad than the next, I started to feel embarrassed about using the English word to refer to these dishes, like an uncle who still refers to the people of Asia as “Orientals.” 

That is, until I watched him make a dish called yam khai dao. I mean, look at this dish! There are carrots and onions! There’s lettuce! Not only does it look like a Western salad, but it’s also about as easy to make. After you fry a couple eggs (in particularly hot oil, so the edges get brown and crispy), you make the sweet-sour-spicy-salty “dressing” and toss everything together. 

Call it salad or whatever you want, but make it right away.

Serves 2 to 6 people as part of a meal

For the eggs and dressing

2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice (preferably from Key limes or spiked with a small squeeze of Meyer lemon juice)
1 1/2 tablespoons Palm Sugar Simple Syrup (Don't worry; it's easy to make! Here's the recipe.)
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons very thinly sliced garlic
2 fresh Thai chiles, preferably green, thinly sliced

For the salad

1 cup torn green leaf lettuce (about 2-inch pieces), lightly packed
1/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion (cut with the grain)
1/4 cup long (about 3-inch), thin (about 1/8-inch) carrot strips
1/4 cup very coarsely chopped Chinese celery (thin stems and leaves), lightly packed
1/4 cup very coarsely chopped cilantro (thin stems and leaves), lightly packed

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here. 

Book photos by Austin Bush. Photo of JJ and Andy via Vice.

Reprinted with permission from Pok Pok by Andy Ricker with J.J. Goode, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • ansh
  • gingerroot
  • mcs3000
  • JJ Goode
    JJ Goode
  • SaraG
I help chefs write cookbooks! I’ve co-authored several, including Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets, Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand (Ten Speed) with Andy Ricker, A Girl and Her Pig (Ecco) with April Bloomfield, and Truly Mexican and Tacos, Tortas, and Tamales (Wiley) with Roberto Santibanez.


ansh November 20, 2013
why dont we add salad?
gingerroot November 5, 2013
The stars were aligned tonight. I decided early in the afternoon that I wanted to make this for dinner. When I picked up my kids from my mom's this evening, she handed me a tupperware full of sliced onion, carrot, celery and green beans, leftover from the yakisoba she had made for herself and my children. At home I added shredded green papaya and enjoyed a fantastically delicious and easy supper. Yum. Will be making this again soon.
JJ G. November 5, 2013
Nice, gingerroot! Now, when can we see your mom's yakisoba recipe!?
mcs3000 November 5, 2013
Yay, Pok Pok. Love your work, JJ Goode! Your foreword in "A Girl and Her Pig" so perfectly captures why I admire April Bloomfield.
JJ G. November 5, 2013
Hey, thank you so much! I wish I could've written one for Andy's book, but some guy named David Thompson did instead. :)
JJ G. November 4, 2013
SaraG, I'm so glad you liked the fried egg salad! It's such a good introduction to the food Andy makes. After reading your review, I suspect you also made ... khao soi? I hope so! It takes some serious effort, but it's so delicious. It provided me with one of those elusive "I can't believe I made this at home" moments.
SaraG November 4, 2013
Yep, it was the khao soi, which was also amazing! The egg salad really struck me though because it was the same high level as the other recipes while being a dish I could realistically make for lunch.
JJ G. November 4, 2013
But I make khao soi for lunch all the time :) Ha, we should've organized the book into two sections: "Things You Can Realistically Make for Lunch" and "Other Stuff."

SaraG November 4, 2013
This is one of the recipes that I tested when I wrote my cookbook review. It's really simple to execute and tastes amazing.

My review:
Greenstuff November 5, 2013
Great review! Convinced me to get the book.
JJ G. November 5, 2013
Oh boy! I love to hear that! Let me know if you'd like any suggestions for other dishes that ask a little more of the home cook. They're projects, for sure, but well worth the effort!
Greenstuff November 9, 2013
I now have the book in hand, and I can confirm that the khao soi will indeed be a project. Nothing better than something that starts out "Up to a few months in advance..."

And yes! I would love some more recommendations for dishes to tackle. Thanks.
JJ G. November 9, 2013
Howdy, Greenstuff! If you send me your email address, Ill send you my list of faves!