Of all Southeast Asian countries, it would seem that Laos, or Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is getting the least attention. That is, until recently when the country began to be recognized for its awesome natural, untouched beauty. Alongside the inspiring scenes and serenity is the Laotian food which has its unique, spicy, and very pleasant flavors.
Lao food is similar to Thai except it is more bitter and some vegetables are served raw. The reason for the raw vegetables is to cool the tongue from the hot spices. The cuisine has influences from French and Chinese food.
Laos has its own beer called BeerLao, a popular national beer brand which is made with jasmine rice. It has been called Asia’s best beer brand by Time Magazine. Another must-try is the local coffee which is strong and flavorful and the beans come from coffee fields in the south of Laos.
The street food in Laos is cheap and safe. Food is cooked in front of you after you place your order. Most street food selections are finger foods because the people from Laos would rather not eat from carts, so they nibble at finger foods. The markets and temples usually have street food vendors selling anything from noodles to rice meals.
Some of the foods you should sample are the:
Laap – The national dish which is a salad made with minced meat or seafood, spices, herbs, chili, and lime juice. It is served with sticky rice.
Green Papaya Salad or Tam maak hung – This dish is very similar to the Thai salad except instead of the Thai’s cat fish, Laos’ version uses crab
Grilled Chicken – served spicy with rice in a banana leaf pack
Lao lao – This is rice wine locally made and very cheap at 30 cents for a large 750 ml bottle. However, it is important to buy from reputable vendors because they can be homemade, distilled under different standards, therefore the quality is not always consistent.
Street food in Laos can cost as little as a dollar or as high as $4. It is preferable to buy from street vendors rather than eating in some restaurants especially in Vang Vieng. This is because there are restaurants that add a little “magic” in the dishes they serve like psychedelic mushrooms or marijuana.