This Thai fried egg salad recipe for yam khai dao makes an addictive salad of crispy fried eggs with sweet tomatoes, purple shallots, crunchy peanuts, fragrant coriander and Chinese celery, chillies, and a salad dressing that’s all at once sweet, sour, tangy, and funky. This is the latest recipe in our Weekend Eggs series on egg dishes from around the world.
When you think of egg salads, what probably comes to mind are creamy boiled egg salads with mayonnaise that have the texture of baby food. This Thai fried egg salad recipe for yam khai dao makes a salad that’s full of so much texture and flavour and a kick of chilli-heat that it couldn’t be more different.
Sweet juicy tomatoes, aromatic coriander, crunchiness coming from the purple shallots, roasted peanuts and Chinese celery stems, a hit of heat from the chillies, crispy fried eggs that soak up a salad dressing that’s sour, sweet, tangy, and funky… this Thai fried egg salad is so simple yet so delicious and it’s absolutely addictive.
This Thai fried egg salad recipe for yam khai dao is the latest recipe in our series of Weekend Eggs dishes. If you haven’t dropped by in a while, we rebooted our Weekend Eggs series on quintessential breakfast eggs dishes from around the world, which we first launched with Grantourismo over a decade ago.
Recipes published in the revived series so far include pesto scrambled eggs, Japanese rolled omelette recipe for tamagoyaki, scrambled eggs with sauteed mushrooms on sourdough, soft scrambled eggs with Chinese pork and chives, Indian egg bhurji, Chinese marbled tea eggs, corn fritter breakfast burgers, Russian devilled eggs, Turkish çılbır poached eggs and menemen scrambled eggs, Calabria’s ‘eggs in purgatory’ with ’nduja, Thai son-in-law eggs, Thai omelette kai jiaw, Cambodian steamed eggs, and Malaysia and Singapore’s half-boiled eggs with kaya jam and toast.
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Thai Fried Egg Salad Recipe for Yam Khai Dao, a Deliciously Addictive Crispy Fried Egg Salad
When we make this Thai fried egg salad recipe for yam khai dao we make a mountain of the stuff as we can’t stop eating it and it keeps well for a day in the fridge in a sealed container. First it serves as a fantastic filling meal on its own for breakfast, brunch or lunch, then we’ll eat any leftovers as a side to Thai fried chicken, which is exactly what we did last night.
In Thailand, this crispy fried egg salad is eaten at any time of day, which is why it makes a brilliant breakfast salad or brunch salad, but serves equally well as lunch or dinner dish. In Thailand, it’s a dish that’s made in the home or sold at a local street food eatery selling a style of home-cooked food. It’s rare that you’d find this simple dish in a Thai restaurant unless it was elevated so as to be barely recognisable. We prefer it prepared in a more rustic home-style fashion.
A Thai ‘yam’ – also written as ‘yum’ – is a kind of salad that is comparable to a tossed salad. The Thai word ‘yam’ in fact doesn’t mean salad as such, but means to mix, toss or combine together. In contrast to a salad such as som tam, which is pounded together in a mortar and pestle, the salad ingredients are combined in a mixing bowl and plated.
As with salads in Cambodia and Vietnam, this style of Thai salad is all about the combination of textures and flavour, as much as vibrancy and aroma. The salad ingredients need to be super fresh, fragrant and vibrant and the dressing needs to be intensely flavoured, like a good dipping sauce.
‘Khai dao’ in Thai means ‘fried egg’, but quite literally ‘star egg’, and it’s a Thai style of fried egg, which means its deep-fried or fried in a lot of oil so that the egg has a crispy texture and is brown coloured.
There are several types of crispy fried eggs: a crispy fried egg with a soft yolk, which is called ‘khai dao mai suk’; a medium-done crispy fried egg with a cooked yolk that is firm, which is ‘khai dao suk pan klang’; and well-done crispy fried egg with a hard yolk, which is ‘khai dao suk mak’, which is how Thais like their eggs to be done for salad.
If you enjoy this recipe, do browse our other Thai recipes. This yum chee recipe by chef Chalee Kader at 100 Mahaseth restaurant in Bangkok is another favourite Thai salad or yam – or yum, if you prefer.
Tips to Making This Thai Fried Egg Salad Recipe
The dressing for this Thai fried egg salad recipe for yam khai dao is what really brings this dish together. Therefore, try to source real palm sugar if you can. It can come crystallised (like brown sugar), but it’s best bought in the form of discs, which travel and store better, or as a firm dense liquid in a jar – almost of the consistency of Chinese maltose but not as annoyingly sticky.
It’s important to make the dressing first so that the flavours meld together. I’ve seen Thai fried egg salad recipes where, rather bizarrely, the salad dressing is not even made into a sauce but ingredients are individually scattere over the finished salad. Like all Thai dressings and Thai dipping sauces, the longer you let the flavours meld, the better the taste.
If you can’t get fresh limes, you can use bottled lime juice but it’s usually crazily expensive. You cannot substitute lemons for this unfortunately, the flavour profile is completely different.
With fish sauce, we use Megachef fish sauce for Thai food because it has the most consistent salinity levels.
We use two bird’s eye chillies to make the base of the dressing. These are pounded down in a mortar and pestle and then the other ingredients are added and stirred in. If you do like some heat, but don’t want to eat the actual flesh or seeds of the bird’s eye chillies, I recommend straining the salad dressing before using it on the salad.
You can use one half of a deseeded long chilli to make the base of the dressing if you don’t like a lot of heat, but *some* chilli heat is essential to this Thai fried egg salad recipe.
The Crispy Fried Eggs
I’ve spotted a few Thai fried egg salad recipes where the salad features fried eggs with soft yolks. Not only is it next to impossible to make really crispy eggs whites to the level of crispiness that the Thais like for this salad – which is a fried egg with a hard yolk called khai dao suk mak – but you already have an amazing salad dressing without the need for runny yolks.
In Thailand, you’ll find that the preferred level of crispiness of the eggs will be different from stall to stall and home to home. Some cooks really baste the yolk so it’s super firm. Some flip the eggs over to really get the whole egg crispy and brown.
For us, even though we love runny yolks, we like to fry these eggs so that the yolk is just cooked through yet we still have the nice crispy brown edges that add texture to each mouthful of the dish.
Because this is not a hot egg dish, you can cook off the eggs before you make the salad – in fact it’s better concentrating on the eggs first so the salad is fresh.
We do one fried egg at a time in a small non-stick pan with plenty of oil, not only so the egg does not stick to the bottom of the pan, but so you have enough oil to baste the egg while its cooking. If your oil is hot enough, it really only takes just over a minute or two per egg.
Thai Fried Egg Salad Recipe
- mortar and pestle
- 2 bird's eye chilies see tips
- 1 tbsp palm sugar more to taste
- 3 tbsp lime juice fresh
- 2 tbsp fish sauce to taste
- Neutral vegetable oil for frying as needed
- 4 eggs large and at room temperature
- 1 small red onion julienned very finely
- 2 long red chillis deseeded and chopped into rounds
- 2 stalks Chinese celery plus a handful of leaves
- 2 Roma tomatoes cut into slim wedges, or cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ cup coriander leaves chopped (cilantro)
- ¼ cup roasted peanuts crushed lightly
To Fry the Eggs
- Fill a small non-stick frying pan (20 cm is optimal), with the oil to around 1 cm in depth. You want this over a medium-high heat and have a surface where you can cool down the pan in-between eggs.
- Prepare some kitchen or paper towels over a tray for the finished eggs. Have a large spoon and a fish slice handy to baste and remove the egg respectively.
- Check the temperature of the oil by placing the base of a wooden chopstick in the middle of the pan. If bubbles form around the chopstick, the oil is hot enough.
- Crack the first egg into a small ramekin and add to the pan. Be careful that it will splatter a little and the whites will start to bubble up – this is a good sign.
- Baste the egg until the edges are as brown as you desire, usually 1-2 minutes. Remove the egg with the fish slice onto the paper or kitchen towels.
- Repeat this process with the remaining eggs.
To make the dressing
- Add the chillis you're using to a mortar and pestle and pound until broken down.
- If using solid palm sugar, break it up before adding the the mortar and pound into the chillis. Add the lime juice and fish sauce and stir to combine. Remember, if you don't want the actual skin or seeds of the bird's-eye chillis in the final dressing, strain them out before dressing the salad.
- Taste the dressing and add sugar, fish sauce or lime juice to taste. Do not dress the salad until just before serving.
To make the Salad
- In a large bowl add the red onion, chilli slices and tomatoes Cut the Chinese celery into small stalks and separate the leaves. Add this to the salad, keeping some of the leaves to finish off the salad.
- Traditionally, the fried eggs are chopped into slices or quarters, but depending on how you want to present the salad, you can present the eggs as you please.
- Once you have added the eggs, mix the salad, add the coriander leaves, peanuts and celery leaves and dress the salad just before serving.
- This dish is generally served either with steamed jasmine rice or just placed on the table as part of a larger spread of dishes. We love it served with Thai fried chicken.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make this Thai fried egg salad recipe for yam khai dao as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.