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Flavors of Laos Cuisine

January 15, 2024 - 4396 views

If you’re considering a trip to Laos, pack your appetite, because it will be routinely and refreshingly engaged each and every meal. We strongly believe that the best way to try Lao food is by exploring authentic dishes found inside the borders of Laos for a truly unique culinary experience.

You know, a good start while exploring a culture’s customs and norms is always to look at what is included in their daily cuisine. Lao flavors and food, in fact, are not at all well known. However, if you are about to visit Laos, besides wonderful landscapes, don't just overlook Lao cuisine. Lao food is distinct from other cuisines, although its cuisine shares similarities with those of its neighbors, often crossing Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. Food is important for everyone, and in Laos, it is often elevated to a lifestyle. One of the wonderful features of the Lao diet is the almost complete absence of processed foods. It’s the poor economic status of this small country that has kept its cuisine fresh, vibrant, and healthy for hundreds of years. Additionally, every region of Laos has its own specialties, so make sure you ask what is best to eat when visiting each town. 

Typical meal in Laos.

A typical meal in Laos

One of the staples of Laos’ food is 'khao niaw' (sticky rice). Sticky rice is considered the essence of what it means to be Lao. Lao people eat sticky rice at a rate of almost 350 pounds (158.75 kg) per person per year, which is considerably more than any other country. Lao people even refer to themselves as "luk khao niaw", which can be translated as "descendants of sticky rice". Served in a little woven basket at each meal, you roll the rice by hand into small balls before dipping it into sauces and eating it with your fingers.

Sticky rice

Sticky Rice

Most Lao dishes contain vegetables and herbs, rice or noodles and fish, chicken, pork, or beef. Laos is blessed with a huge variety of fresh fruit and most meals will conclude with a plate of freshly cut fruits such as mango, pineapple, watermelon, and dragon fruit. The freshness of the ingredients is very important to Lao people who like to prepare everything from scratch, rather than use pre-prepared ingredients, as they believe this makes their food more delicious. Herbs such as galangal and lemongrass are favorites and "padaek" (Laos fish sauce) is found on every table.

Another daily favorite is noodle soup which is a hearty soup incorporating meat, noodles, and vegetables. Don’t be surprised if when ordering your noodle soup, a huge plate of local salad vegetables arrives at the same time, together with a range of sauces and condiments.

Although Lao cuisine has many influences, such as Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese and French, when talking about Laos food, most people who know Laos or have been to Laos would know "laab"- a chopped meat “salad” made of meat (pork, chicken, beef, duck or fish) dressed with lime juice, garlic, crushed, roasted rice and herbs including eggplant, fresh chilies, mustard leaves, and lettuce. It can be eaten with ordinary rice or sticky rice and is usually eaten with fish/meat soup depending on the main ingredient being used. “Laab: is a dish that is particular to Laos and is often served on special occasions such as weddings, Baci ceremonies or other celebrations as in the Lao language “laab” means “luck or good fortune”. However you will find it served in every good Lao restaurant around the country. Other Lao favorites include “tam mak houng” (papaya salad), “oh lam” (stew), barbecued fresh fish and grilled meats and steamed fish or chicken in banana leaves.

Laab: The National Dish of Lao

Laab: The National Dish of Lao 

Therefore, authentic Lao cuisine is definitely worth a try. And Lao people take great passion in sharing traditional dishes with curious travelers. So if you are lucky to be invited into a local’s home for a meal, don't miss the opportunity to join.


Image Sources: Internet

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