Lao cuisine is very similar to its Thai neighbour – diverse and delicious. Dishes are drizzled in aromatic flavours such as lemon grass, chillies, ginger and tamarind. Being a land locked country most of the food source comes from the Mekong. The staple diet comprises khao niao, sticky rice eaten with your hands, served with pa dek a fermented fish and lashings of nam pa or fish sauce. Another Mekong specialty is dried seaweed, a popular snack to accompany the country’s own brew, Beer Lao.
In Luang Prabang, you’re in for a treat: the local food is a distinctive branch of Lao cuisine, with sour and bitter flavors in some dishes. Try ohlam, a category of slow-cooked dishes with simmered dill, vegetables, and meat or fish; and larp, a pounded seasoned paste of fish or meat dish eaten with sticky rice. Luang Prabang offers goodtasting sticky rice, plenty of steamed vegetables, a distinctive warm salad of lettuce, herbs, and egg, as well as delicious grilled fish and meat, generally served with one of the many hot-tasting relish-cum-salsas called jaew. You can find much of this in the small night market between the river and the post office, as well as in restaurants a specializing in Luang Prabang food. You’ll also find Chinese and French restaurants, somewhat pricey and generally good. Try eating noodle soup from vendors near Talad Data or other markets; you’ll also want to taste the small, lettuce wrapped flavor packets sold by street vendors and generically known as miang. Ask for our annual restaurant guide.
Laap is a traditional dish made from minced fish or meat marinated in lemon juice and mixed with chopped mint. Tam som is a local favourite green shredded papaya salad served with chilli peppers, spices and fish sauce. In fact, fish sauce and sweet chilli sauce tend to be the main accompaniments with every meal.
Fruit is plentiful. The tropical climate produces coconuts, papayas, mangoes, bananas, durians, pineapple, rambutan, sugar cane, custard apple and more. Street stalls serve grilled bananas and blended fresh fruit juices, which are cheap and to die for!
Vietnam has influenced Lao cuisine by introducing the feu noodle soup served with meat and vegetables and deep fried or fresh spring rolls. The French have also left a legacy of fresh baguettes, croissants and sticky pastries washed down with a cup of strong black Lao coffee. In Vientiane there are several good French restaurants and you can also find Italian and Indian restaurant in major towns.