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10 typical local dishes to try in Laos

  • By Easia Admin
  • August, 10, 2017

Lao food is gaining global appreciation as more foodies become open to the culture. Rich in tastes and flavours, it is fully part of a journey into the most preserved place of Southeast Asia. Below is a selection of the typical food you should experience while visiting Laos:

  1. Sticky Rice: ‘Khao Niao’, as Lao people call it, is the very basis of every meal in the beautiful country of Laos; breakfast, lunch or dinner, for snacks, main course, dessert, you name it! It comes in a variety of colours and taste, from the white grains to the purple ones. In the other countries of Southeast Asia, it is rather uncommon, or only used on special occasions, but here it is part of the identity of every local. Try it Lao style, making a small ball of rice in your hand, and dipping it in chilli sauce.
  2. Papaya salad: The most common starter in Laos is a salad made from green papaya, called ‘Tum Mak Hoong’. Beware, it is generally extremely spicy with a lot a chilli, but as it is always prepared upon request in front of you with mortar and pestle, do not hesitate to ask for less ‘makphet’ (chili in Laotian). It is accompanied with lemon garlic and cherry tomatoes, however, what really differentiates the Thai from the Lao recipe is the addition of ‘Padaek’ (fish sauce), which gives Tum Mak Hoong all its flavour, aroma and color.
  3. Padaek: But what is exactly Padaek? Well, some Lao cooks would exclaim that it is the lifeblood of Lao cuisine! The traditional Lao fermented fish sauce is a quintessential ingredient and condiment. Other countries in Southeast Asia have their fish sauce, but nothing comparable with padaek, which is much thicker and often contains chunks of fish in it. Its smell and taste are a real experience for the novice, as much as the strongest cheese for one who is not used to it, so prepare your palate to be adventurous!
  4. Laap: The signature dish in Laos, and the translation of ‘Laap’ in English means ‘luck’, so your trip in Laos would definitely not be complete if you don’t give it a try! It is a type of minced meat salad, either raw or cooked, mixed with chilli, mint, lemon, finely ground toasted rice and padaek. You can choose whatever meat suits your taste, but the laap is most often made with chicken (Laap gai), beef (Laap ngua), duck (Laap pek), fish (Laap pa) or pork (Laap mu).
  5. Khaiphaen: A typical food in Luang Prabang, and the ingredient of these crispy chips is quite surprising! Khaiphaen are made from river weed harvested in the Mekong and other rivers of Northern Laos, genuinely turned into a tasty snack. During the dry season, the green algae is picked from the rocks laying at the river bottom, washed and dried. Later, it is soaked with aromatic dressing, then topped with sesame seeds, thin slices of garlic, tomato, galangal, and left dry in the sun for a day, ready to consume after being flash fried.
  6. Khao Piak: This dish is perfect in its simplicity. The Lao noodle soup is commonly eaten as a breakfast, but can also do the job for all the other meals. Eaten with a spoon and chopsticks, Khao Piak consists in large chewy noodles made with rice flour and tapioca starch, and garnished with chicken, sliced green onions, cabbage, fried garlic and shallots, lime, chilli and fish sauce. Easy to find at street food stands, it is one of the most common and practical dishes in Laos.
  7. Luang Prabang Sausage: The Laotian sausage is one of the most famous specialities in Luang Prabang. Made generally from pork, is it seasoned with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, chilli and garlic, to provide its unique taste. Loved unanimously by the locals and the tourists, it is as much an inescapable dish as Luang Prabang is a must-see in Laos!
  8. Mok Pa: What could be more exotic than a fish wrapped in banana leave? This delicious and traditional dish reveals all its flavour of fresh herbs, after being slowly cooked with the steam and infused with the recognizable perfume of the banana leave. As a non-spicy dish, and often a hit in travelers’ top 10 food.
  9. Lemongrass stuffed chicken: Lemongrass is a long stemmed herb popular in Asia to be used in teas, soups, curries, or stir fries. There is really nothing quite like it to give a citrusy flavour to your dishes, and can be added in so many different ways. Lao people had the great idea to use it as a base for the chicken stuffing. The result? A gorgeous and creative looking meal, with an inimitable taste once the chicken is dipped in a side of peanut sauce. Yummy!
  10. Beer: Lao Yes, Beer Lao is not food, but honestly, any meal in Laos can not be truely conceived without a glass of fresh Beer Lao. Perfect to celebrate a special event or just everyday life, its based on locally grown…jasmine rice! Added to hops and yeast, it gives its original taste to one of the most appreciated beer in Laos. Don’t be surprised if you see the locals filling their glass with ice first before pouring the beverage, it is the Lao style to drink the Beer Lao!

Along with other tailor-made culinary activities, we recommend trying out our “hands-on cooking class” at Vanvisa, Luang Prabang, a very local and delicious experience, in a magical location. For more information about this or other activities, please contact

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