Yam Khai Dao: The Spicy Thai Egg Salad You Should Know About

Thai food and signature Thai dishes have become one of the most beloved types of cuisine served all over the world. Thai food enthusiasts may know of staples like pad Thai, drunken noodles, or their favorite variety of coconut curry, but the extensive list of Thai menu items available to try is miles long. One of the most flavorful and unique dishes is called yam khai dao. Yam khai dao, commonly referred to as fried egg salad, combines rich flavors, vital proteins, and nutritious vegetables into one unified dish.

If yam khai dao isn't one of your Thai cuisine go-to's, we're here to tell you it should be! A perfect meal for any time of day, it's a versatile gluten-free dish that can be served alongside rice or eaten on its own. Relatively simple to prepare, yam khai dao can also be a great introduction to Thai cooking. Read on as we explore the ins and outs of the famous Thai dish.

What is yam khai dao?

Directly translated from Thai to English, yam (sometimes written or referred to as yum) means salad, while khai dao translates to fried egg. While your mind may immediately think of ingredients like mayonnaise, mustard, paprika, and a few slices of sandwich bread — be assured that this type of egg salad is not what you'd expect from a local deli counter.

In one delicious bite, yam khai dao is the perfect merriment of sweet, spicy, acidic, and salty flavors. According to Serious Eats, yam khai dao is a dish eaten alongside traditional Thai dishes like curries, noodles, and a bowl of rice — as opposed to an appetizer salad eaten before the meal. The ingredients of this recipe can differ from regional ingredients or personal preferences. Still, at the core, each recipe combines warm fried eggs alongside a chili-based dressing, fresh aromatic vegetables, and herbs.

Yam khai dao ingredients

Yam khai dao is made up of the following ingredients: eggs, Thai chilies, palm sugar (or brown sugar substitute), lime juice, fish sauce, garlic, cilantro, and fresh vegetables, according to Grantourismo Travels. While the chosen vegetables can vary from dish to dish, the base of the salad is usually made up of shallots, tomatoes, and Chinese celery. Traditional celery found in your local produce section will be a suitable substitute for those unable to find Chinese celery. To top off the dish, many individuals choose to add roasted peanuts for an extra crunch and boost of flavor.

All the ingredients complement one another in harmony — starting with the base ingredient, fried eggs. Unlike western fried eggs, the style of fried eggs you'll see on a Thai dish like yam khai dao is crispy and golden brown all around the edges. The texture of the crispy egg gives this salad an unexpected bite.

Steps to cooking and preparing yam khai dao

Yam khai dao is easy to make when following a few simple rules. The key to creating an incredible yam khai dao is to ensure you're following these three steps — starting with the salad dressing. By combining the Thai chilis, palm sugar, garlic, lime juice, and fish sauce at the beginning of your preparation, you can let all of the rich flavors blend and add more depth of flavor to your salad. According to Grantourismo Travels, the longer the dressing ingredients have to blend together, the better the result.

After you've created your dressing, it's time to fry your egg. Using a boiling, well-oiled pan and room-temperature eggs, you can make the desired Thai-style khai dao (via Serious Eats). Then, while your eggs are cooling down, prepare your salad ingredients. Once your egg is warm, cut it into bit size pieces, add to your vegetables, and top with dressing and peanuts alongside white rice to enjoy.

Preparing the fried eggs

The fried egg is undoubtedly the star of any yam khai dao dish — golden brown in appearance, soft (not running) yolks, and a crispy bite you can hear from a mile away. While intimidating to some, mastering the egg preparations comes down to these three factors: a searing pain, a generous amount of hot oil, and room-temperature eggs.

Start by heating a pan and adding enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan generously. Once hot or smoking, according to Hot Thai Kitchen, drop in your egg and leave for roughly 20-30 seconds. The egg whites should begin to bubble and turn a crispy golden brown around the edges. To help cook through evenly, base the egg's top with the hot oil using a long spoon. Once the egg has an even golden brown and the yolk is firm, remove it from the pan and place it atop a paper towel to cool. Repeat for every egg, as eggs should be cooked one at a time not to overcrowd the pan.

Preparing the dressing

If the fried egg is the star of the show — the dressing is indeed the orchestra to a phenomenal performance. Prepare a pestle and mortar and start with your Thai or bird's eye chilis (via Grantourismo Travels). Once ground into a paste, add your remaining ingredients, including palm sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, and garlic. Using the pestle and mortar for your dressing can help blend the ingredients to create a rich depth of flavor.

If you don't have a mortar and pestle, the ingredients must be chopped finely or minced to help create a cohesive flavor throughout the dressing. For those who like spicy, feel free to leave in the chili as a whole once removing the stem. For those looking for a milder dressing, remove the chili seeds and dice or grind the flesh of the chili only. Wait until serving to add the dressing for fresh and crisp vegetables.

Where does yam khai dao come from?

Originating in Thailand, yam khai dao is not necessarily a dish you'd expect to see in a nice sit-down restaurant when visiting (according to Thai Hot Kitchen). In fact, yam Khai dao is known as fast food option in the country. You may find it at food courts and malls, and it is a staple for kids' lunches (via Hot Thai Kitchen). The style of preparing a khai dao fried egg translates into many more recipes throughout Thailand. Whether it's served alongside a favorite curry or incorporated into their signature dish Pad Krapow (via The Culture Trip)

Whether you're looking for a new go-to salad to prepare on your own or an exciting dish to try the next time you order takeout from your favorite Thai restaurant — remember yam khai dao. The rich depths of flavor and layers of ingredients that go into creating this dish are sure to leave you with a mouthful of deliciousness.