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. If you are looking for a slightly more special noodle soup, Khao Soy is a must try. It has a scoop of slow-cooked, spicy pork mince added to the soup and it is probably the best thing I have ever tasted.
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. Eaten as little balls to dip into sauce or turned into a desert with mango, it is easy to understand why it is eaten for every meal in Laos.
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.