I first came across khao yum, or Thai rainbow rice salad, at Noma’s food festival, the MAD symposium in Copenhagen, when one morning the Sydney-based Thai restaurateur and organic farmer Palisa Anderson cooked this vibrant breakfast dish for 600 people. As a Noma stagiaire, or intern, at the time, my job was to help plate it (the festival theme that year was equality, and eating a diet that supports the fair treatment of people is a central part of my root-to-fruit manifesto. Although the recipe features a lot of ingredients, it’s a delicious way to use up whatever you happen to have in the vegetable crisper drawer of the fridge.
Khao yum, or rainbow rice salad
This vibrant salad is a great way to use up different seasonal vegetables. If you like, dye the rice a colourful blue and/or yellow, making this a fun and exotic dish to cook at home: turmeric is usually used to dye it yellow and blue pea flowers to turn it blue. You can buy blue pea flowers from good healthfood shops and online, but you can also use red cabbage: to do so, measure 400ml water into a stainless-steel saucepan, bring to a boil, then add 100g shredded red cabbage and simmer for five minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid, then tip the cabbage into a bowl and set aside to serve with the salad. Add a small pinch of bicarbonate of soda to the cooking liquor, stir to dissolve, and watch carefully as the liquid starts to turn blue. Stir in a second small pinch of bicarb and repeat, if necessary, until the liquid turns a vivid blue (check by putting a spoonful on a white plate, so you can see the colour clearly). If you add too much bicarb, the liquid may start to go green; if this happens, add a little vinegar to return it to blue. To cook the rice, pour the blue liquid into a saucepan, add the rice, bring to a boil over a medium heat, then cover, turn down the heat very low, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and/or all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat, tip into a colander and leave to cool.
250g jasmine rice
5 fried butterfly pea flowers or 1 tsp turmeric powder, for colouring the rice (optional)
3g piece kelp
1 tbsp tamari, or soy sauce
1 dried shiitake mushroom
½ tsp rice vinegar
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
½ tbsp miso
1 tsp fermented bean curd (optional)
50g each of 3 seasonal vegetables (eg, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, carrots, beansprouts, runner beans, squash), cut into thin strips or finely chopped
4 tbsp coconut flakes, toasted in a dry frying pan for five minutes, until golden
1 lemongrass stalk, finely shredded
1 grapefruit, peeled, separated into segments and finely shredded or diced
8 makrut lime leaves, finely shredded
1-2 pinches dried chilli flakes, or to taste
1 unwaxed lime, cut into wedges
Wash the rice, then put in a pot and cover with two cups of water; if you’d like to dye the rice blue or yellow, add either the dried blue butterfly pea flowers or turmeric powder. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat very low, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and/or all of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat and leave to cool while you make the dressing.
In a jug, combine the kelp, tamari, shiitake mushroom, rice vinegar, garlic, miso and fermented bean curd, if using. Stir in 125ml water and set aside to steep for 30 minutes. Tip the dressing mix into a blender, blitz smooth, then refrigerate until needed.
To build the salad, spoon the rice into the middle of individual plates and surround with little piles of the vegetables and all the other ingredients. Serve with lime wedges, chilli flakes and the dressing.