When you are getting ready for your trip, you will no doubt be wondering what to eat in Laos, well, this country’s cooking is very rich and tasty. Being an Asian country, if you like vegetables and soups, we are sure you will love it, although there is also fish and ceviche.
The food in Laos has rice as its main ingredient, as with any proper South Asian country. Rice is present in most, if not all, dishes of the country’s cuisine. Its flavour has a characteristic touch, which comes from the fish sauce. Jeow bong, a sweet and spicy flavouring, is also used a lot which also gives a special something to the rice.
But let's see which are the typical dishes of the country and what to eat in Laos during your trip. I’ll tell you in advance that, if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, Laos has lots of options, but if you like meat, you're also in luck.
Tam Mak Hoong
This dish of Laos cuisine is a spiced salad made of green papayas. It is served cold with tomato, garlic, chilli and dressed with fish sauce. This salad is often served as an accompaniment to grilled chicken, Kai yang.
Another of the typical dishes of Laos is the vegetable salad, which is often served as a starter. Just like Noh May soup, a green bamboo stew, typical of the country.
Keng Noh Mai Som
With this name you will find a sour bamboo soup, which is one of the options to eat in Laos as a starter. Other soups from Laos cooking are Tom Mak Ha, sour melon soup, Khao Poon Nam Jaew, rice soup, or Keng Som Kai, sour chicken soup.
Khao Piak Sen
Another of the soups to eat in Laos, is noodle soup, that the locals eat for breakfast. It contains meat or chicken stock, and is made with rice noodles, all flavoured with fresh herbs, which give a mild and pleasant flavour.
The national dish of Laos, Lapp is a mincemeat salad, traditionally made using either pork, beef or fish and served on a bed of lettuce and other green salad leaves. In some places, the meat is served raw, cooked only in the acidity of the lemon juice it is flavored with. Nowadays, vegetarian options are common too, with mushrooms or tofu, made from soybeans, replacing the traditional mincemeat. This dish can be found in all restaurants serving traditional fare in Laos and is normally accompanied by sticky rice and eaten by hand.
Or Larm is another of the typical dishes of Laos which delights locals and visitors. It consists of a type of meat stew of buffalo, beef or chicken. It includes mushrooms, aubergines, onion, green beans and bamboo. You can ask for it to be spicy, or less spicy.
Khao Niaw is the name given to sticky rice which is cooked in Laos. Laotians eat it by making a ball with the hand, it is very sticky rice which is cooked in a bamboo basket. It is served in small bowls to keep the ideal temperature.
Ping Sin y Ping Kai
One of the most popular ways of cooking food in Laos is to grill it. Ping Sin is grilled meat, whilst Ping Kai is grilled chicken. You can also find grilled fish of course, in any case, it is seasoned with spices and sauce, and of course, served with rice.
If you like fish, this steamed fish dish which is cooked wrapped in a banana leaf is one of the best things you can try. Of all of the food in Laos, this dish is one of the more refined, it is seasoned with lemongrass, onion, chilli and lime leaves. Although its preparation is rustic, the explosion of flavours is fit for a Michelin star restaurant.
For curry fans, this dish is perfect for a good lunch or evening meal. Although it originates from Thailand, this curry dish is made with vegetables, along with chicken or fish. Amongst its ingredients it contains coriander, aubergines, bamboo shoots, fresh chillies, and various aromatic flowers.
To end the culinary journey, as a dessert you must try Khao Nom Maw Keng, coconut cakes. And to go with each dish, ask for a Laos beer, the famous Beerlao, that you will find throughout the country. It is a craft lager-style beer, with body and colour, and with an exquisite flavour.
Now you know what to eat in Laos, remember that a real trip isn’t just about landscape and photos, the real experience is through the palate, as well as by living amongst the country’s inhabitants, from whom you will learn first-hand their customs and traditions.
Street sellers in markets throughout Laos offer these strange delicacies, which many would never think of eating in the West, although they prove to be a deliciously cheap and sustainable source of protein. The most popular edible insects are crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and silkworms, all of which have been important elements in Lao cuisine for many centuries. The insects are deep-fried and served with a variety of sauces, making for a tasty and nutritious snack for those brave enough to try them.
An obviously Asian dish, Kaipen is fried seaweed made from green freshwater algae that are processed into paper-thin sheets of seaweed. Once dried and ready to serve the sheets are fried and sprinkled abundantly with sesame seeds and served with a chilli dipping sauce. They make a great side dish or appetizer and can be sampled in most traditional Lao restaurants.
Khao Jee Sandwich
Found on street corners across Laos this dish is a classic fusion of the French and Lao cuisine, showcasing the abundant flavors of Laos and the traditional French baguette. The dish consists of a baguette filled with fresh salad, pork and a flavorsome spicy sauce, resulting in a simple and cheap lunch option enjoyed by the masses.
Similar to the sausages sold throughout Thailand, Lao Sausagecontains a spicy and fragrant mixture of pork flavored with lemongrass and an abundance of chilli. You will see these sausages strung out to dry on street stalls throughout Laos, where you can buy them to cook at home. Alternatively, they are on most restaurant menus and form a delicious part of a meal when served with the typical sticky rice and a chilli sauce.