Food in Laos is similar to the food in other countries in South East Asia. Lots of rice, noodles, greens, soups, curries, Pad Thai, crispy pork and other type of meat, fish and seafood. Laotian dishes would typically include mint, cilantro (coriander) and green onion and can get pretty spicy. Almost anything can be paired with sticky rice. And there are some specialities you should not miss out on. The best thing – like anywhere in South East Asia – is the great number of street food stalls. You can never go hungry here.
There are several Laotian specialities you might want to try out.
Laap – also larb of lab; a meat salad in which the meat is prepared immediately after butchering (and often eaten raw). Typically there would be pork or fish laap. It contains lots of herbs, including the typical ones, named above.
Paeng Pet – Eating raw duck blood, or even pig or goat blood, is very common in Laos. In this dish, the blood is mixed with some cooked minced duck and organs, and again, heaps of Laos herbs. They also often add some crispy shallots and peanuts.
Jaew – Hot hot hot! Always contains chili peppers, and usually some type of grilled vegetable, sometimes also fermented fish. Jaew bong is another local Laos favourite, a chili dip made with dried chilies, garlic, galangal, shallots, and a little bit of dried buffalo for taste.
Or Lam – Prepared using animal fat (usually pork). Traditionally including buffalo skin and Mai Sakaan, a magic ingredient that can only be described as ‘spicy chili wood’, very fibrous, meant to be chewed but then spit out.
Khao Piak Sen – This simple bowl of rice noodles can be found on nearly every street corner in Laos. As this is common to be the locals´ breakfast, the chef is usually up long before dawn, creating a gigantic drum full of broth. They use thick, hand rolled noodles.
Khao Soi – Unlike in Thailand, in Laos they make it without using gati (coconut milk). The minced pork is slow-cooked for hours, traditionally over a charcoal fire.
Tam – The most common way to have it is with crispy shredded green (unripe) papaya, which is why it is sometimes called (not so correctly) “papaya salad”. All the ingredients are raw.
Khao Jee – This sandwich clearly shows the blend with Laos´ French colonial past. These massive baguettes are everywhere in Laos. The ingredients are scooped, smeared, chopped and literally thrown into the sandwiches; it almost feels like a competition who can create the fastest masterpiece. Try yours with a thick layer of pate! A full-option baguette will range from 10,000-20,000 Kip.
Sai Oo-ah – fatty and smoky sausage prepared by using a mixture of pork belly, skin, and minced meat; it can also include diced galangal, chopped green onions, cilantro, dill and fresh chili peppers. Best hot, directly from the grill, served on a banana leaf so you can eat it as you go.
Naem – This sun-ripened pork delicacy uses it all: cartilage crunching, chewy skin, the powerfully hot chili peppers, all smoothed together. This definitely is rich in collagen!
Mok – “a banana leaf wrap“. The cooking style is always either steaming, or roasting over coals. Opening one of these is always exciting when there are so many variations to try. Fish, herbs, spices, or even pig brains, are common in a good Mok.
Soop Pak – You can find many variations of this dish, some with string beans, others with spinach like greens, and a local version with cashew tree leaves. The vegetables are typically blanched, mixed with herbs, and the most necessary ingredient is a huge amount of sesame seeds to wrap it all together and give it its unique nutty taste.
Morning glory – Those amazing green leaves are fried with chillies and garlic, sometimes also with ginger. Served with rice and found anywhere in SE Asia, this is a simple vegan and vegetarian option you will never get bored with.