Laos may not have an internationally renowned cuisine, but it really should! Lao food is similar to Thai if a little more simple. The dishes are humble, fragrant and full of flavor. And due to the French colonial heritage, they have actual French baguettes. These are my absolute favourites:
1. Noodle Soup
Noodle soup is a staple of Lao cuisine and can be eaten any time of day. The soup is generally served as a simple fragrant broth with fresh noodles, a basket of herbs and greens and chicken or pork (or vegetarian). There will be chili, sugar and vinegar on the table to add to taste.
My favorite dish in the whole of Laos (and one of my favorite dishes of all time) is Khao Soy from a tiny street food stall on the night market in Luang Prabang. It’s different from the Khao Soy in Thailand. Laos Khao Soy is a noodle soup with a spow cooked, spicy pork stew. Absolute heaven!
This national dish can be eaten in restaurants and is a little pricier, but well worth the extra dollar. Laab is a spicy, cold meat salad, which doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it really is. The small pieces of meat are mixed with a tangy marinade, chilli and ground roasted rice for a little crunch.
Laos if a fertile, tropical country, which means: delicious fruit. You can find fresh, juicy, sweet mangoes, pineapples and melons everywhere. And the vendors will even peel and cut them for you, or turn them into a delicious shake.
4. Sticky rice
I’m not the biggest fan of rice, but sticky rice is something else entirely. It takes a long time to make, but the Lao people know how to get it just right.
Sticky rice is served with everything. It’s a glutenous steamed rice that’s, well, sticky. You roll it into little balls and dip it into sauces and other dishes. Like the national dish, Larb, a cold meat salad or spicy papaya salad.
5. Lao Lao
Drinking is a big part of Lao social culture. The national beer, Beer Lao, is affordable and pretty tasty. But the star of the show is rice whisky, simply named: Lao Lao. It’s the cheapest thing at any bar, but surprisingly tasty. If you visit a Lao family, prepare to drink a few shots of homebrewed Lao Lao as well.