Like in other countries trying the local food in Laos is an exciting experience. It has some French influence, and also shares some similarities with Thai and Vietnamese food.
The main part of a meal is Sticky rice – except of soup and baguette every dish I had come with tasty sticky rice. You will also find a variety of different meat – in addition of pork, chicken, beef and duck you can even try water buffalo – which is highly recommended. Overall the food in Laos is just delicious.
The Laotians like their food spicy, so when ordering food like papaya salads check how many chillies they put into the food. In one local area I was asked if I want some chillies in my salad – just to show me a handful of chillies. Trust me, two little chillies were enough for me. If you need spicier food they usually put chillies and other bits on the table as well.
In most larger places, especially Luang Prabang and Vientiane you can find some nice restaurants, but everywhere you can eat in local food places, where they serve delicious and fresh food for a low price. And if you fancy some Western food, you will find places serving pizza, pasta or fries
Below are some examples of great dishes and drinks you should try when in Laos.
Maybe one of the most famous specialities from Laos, Laap is mince meat with spices and herbs, served with sticky rice. If available I would highly recommend trying water buffalo laap. In Luang Prabang they also offer a similar dish as salad – the main difference is that the meat is slightly thicker and cold. It is nice, but I still prefer the original laap
Thanks to the Mekong you will find a lot of fish on the menu. Some places offer whole fish nicely grilled and full of herbs and spices. One Lao speciality is Mok Pa – fish wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. It is a great dish and should be on the to-eat list when in Laos.
This is a great fresh little dish. A salad with papaya, garlic, fish sauce and as many chilies as you want. It is perfect for lunch during a hot day. Just be careful, make sure how much chillies you want, I have seen an attempt to out 6 chillies in a little salad.
Throughout Laos you find places serving noodle soup – even in little villages. Most of them are similar to Vietnamese Pho, and a great dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is quite a variation of soups in different places. A great version is Khao Soi dish, served in Luang Prabang – a Pho soup with minced meat that gave the soup a red colour. Very tasty.
One clear sign of the French influence are baguette that are served everywhere. You find little street stalls everywhere. They are served with a variety of meat, vegetables and as many chillies as much as you want. Highly recommended to try.
In Laos you can also get hot pots in Laos. In Pakse you can get great fish and sea food hot pot. In Luang Prabang you can find some eat-as-much-as-you-can hot pot buffets
Like in other SEA countries will you find curries in Laos. One big difference to Thai curry is that it is more watery, sometimes looking like a soup. Nonetheless you find some great curry dishes.
In addition to the tasty main meals there are many little snacks available. One Laos speciality that need to be tried is deep-fried river weed – a perfect addition to a cold beer. You can also get some little coconut cakes, crispy rice bread, chicken feet, fried crickets, or if you prefer something more traditional fried spring rolls
Maybe one of the most important drinks when on holiday, Laos offers one of the best beer I know – Beer Lao. There is no better to finish a day with a cold beer. The other beer on offer is Namkhong, which is not a bad beer but is not as good as Beer Lao.
You can get some great local coffee in Laos, grown on the Bolaven Plateau is the coffee plantation of Laos. My favourite is ice coffee with sweet condensed milk. So if you like coffee, you will find god one in Laos.
One of the most important drinks is obviously water. Only drink bottled water, and never drink tab water. You also get all kind of different fresh fruit juices or shakes, including the delicious sugar cane juice. In Laos you can also get cocktails using Lao Vodka and Lao rum. And for the brave souls, there is another speciality – Lao whisky. It is worth a try.