Founded approximately 1200 years ago, Luang Prabang was the very first capital of Laos. It is no longer the capital of Laos but still remains the best tourist attraction in the country. If you ever have the chance to visit Luang Prabang Laos together with other neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, you must realize that it is among the most charming riverside towns. In this blog, I am going to share my experience with the rustic but so tasty Luang Prabang street foods.
This town locates in the North of Laos, on a peninsula formed by the Mekong River and Nam Khan River. Visiting this place made me have the feeling of coming back to a time – to what is really ancient. It is because the local people of Luang Prabang have done a really good job of preserving the architectural and artistic heritage. Thus, it is exceptionally authentic. Luang Prabang city center is not huge, which will make your food journey easy as a piece of cake and even if your traveling schedule is running short.
BBQ with Laos style
I had traveled the whole country and could confidently assert that you will not be able to find the well-known restaurant chains here, such as Italia/American pizza, beefsteak, fried chicken, or Korean/Japanese food that often. It is different from Thailand or Vietnam, where there is an abundance of choice as for when you travel but want to find something for your meal that is not the ordinary food for the locals. Hence, having tried the BBQ with Laos style was such a life-time experience for me.
To be honest, I did not have the intention to give this a try; eventually, I was invited by my friend to this BBQ restaurant. I hardly saw any foreigners in this place, so I guessed this was totally authentic. I was so impressed by the quality of the food prepared as well as how they grilled the meats. There is a buffet tempting in front of my eyes with pork, beef, vegetable, and even seafood. You must wonder about the sources of seafood as Laos has no beach border; then all of the seafood is imported every day from Thailand, and apart from Vietnam. As a result, there is no need to question the freshness and sanity of those foods.
The grillers were the combination with hot-pot function operated by charcoal underneath. It means that you can eat 2 styles at the same time. You can enjoy the BBQ at a reasonable price, starting from 60,000 kips (around US$8) per person. Also, you can find some BBQ restaurant alongside the river banks, next to the old town.
This type of food is sold by vendors or sidewalk stalls and the place where you can find it easily is at the center night market. They make the barbecues from pork, fish, egg, or chicken wings and the meats are usually on a skewer or between 2 bamboo sticks. Laos people also eat animal organs and other animal parts as well, which are not so familiar to Western culture. Even to me, I had no idea which part of the animal I ate because they made it into sausages with appealing red skin and smoke smell. The local seller did not speak any of English; apparently, I could not communicate and ask her what that was. Nevertheless, the stick was still tasty in any way.
Although this type of food will not make you full, it is certainly a fun experience even if you do not know what you are eating.
Many Southeast Asia countries cook their own traditional noodle soups. Laos also have their own type called “Khao Soi”, which is more popular in the Northern part of Laos, like in Luang Prabang. It can be described as the flat rice noodle served with pork broth, bolognese of minced pork, tomatoes, garlic, and fermented bean paste. When the seller presents a bowl of Khao Soi to the customers, they always bring along a plate of herbs which will be added based on personal taste. You can also add more sour taste from lime or spicy taste from chili paste according to your preference after the bowl is brought out.
Laos Khao Soi is not the same as Thai Khao Soi, as the latter is a coconut curry noodle soup. What makes Laos Khao Soi stand out is the meat Bolognese that is cooked by adding a special kind of fermented soybean paste. A bowl of Khao Soi can be a perfect choice for your breakfast or lunch since it is so easy to find in the local restaurants in Luang Prabang.
Pork Larb (Lab)
Larb is basically a kind of salad made from meat, and Pork Larb (aka Larb Moo) is one of the most common appetizers in Laos. Many people think that Larb originates from Thailand as you can find this dish is so common and popular in every Thai menu. In contrast, Larb has its root in Laos and has made its way to Thailand and some other countries.
Larb can be made from not only pork but also from beef, buffalo, chicken, or duck. Still, pork is the most used ingredient. When I did a research about Larb, it is interesting to know that the meat in the dish can be cooked or raw; nonetheless, I went for the safer choice, which is to try the cooked one. A typical dish of Larb Moo combines ground pork with many types of herbs such as cilantro, scallions, mint, fresh lime juice; and 1 more important ingredient is rice powder. Finally, a plate of Larb Moo would not be complete without the wrap of fresh cabbage. You should find this dish in a proper restaurant rather in a sidewalk stall in Luang Prabang. This is one of my most favorite dishes that can be made at home since it requires no special ingredients!
Fresh fruit shake and fruit juice
The weather in Luang Prabang is hot all year round. Therefore, it gives rise to the demand for fresh and cold products. Luckily, I found stalls of fresh fruit, fruit shake and juice in almost all corners in Luang Prabang; and of course, they are not too expensive to purchase. After every meal, I often bought a box of mixed fresh fruit, mainly with watermelon, yellow melon, dragon fruit, and mango. For the fruit juice, there is always a menu in English for foreigners to order together with a fixed price. This is such a good way to ease your thirst, to finish your meals, or to supplement vitamin while traveling.
Suggested Laos tours to Luang Prabang
Despite its calmness and quietness, Luang Prabang is still a small, ancient, and lovely town to visit. You do not need to spend too much on food but still can find numerous good Luang Prabang street foods. Make sure to try my list when you are in Luang Prabang tours!
Minh Vu – Travel Specialist