If only have 24 hours in Laos, what are you gonna eat? Laos is a treasure trove for food enthusiasts, and the street food Laos scene is a testament to the country’s rich culinary heritage. Laos cuisine combines the cultures of Vietnam and Thailand. From aromatic curries to fiery salads, there’s something to tantalize every taste bud. Let’s hop on a culinary adventure with Indochina Voyages as we delve into the mouthwatering world of street food in Laos!
1. Khao Soi (Laos Noodle Soup)
One of the must-try dishes in Laos is Khao Soi, a fragrant noodle soup that combines the best of Lao and Thai flavors. This is an iconic dish that originated in northern Thailand but has become a beloved part of the street food scene in Laos as well.
It features a rich and creamy curry broth made with aromatic spices and coconut milk. The dish is typically served with tender meat, egg noodles, and crispy fried noodles for added texture. Topped with fresh herbs and a squeeze of lime juice, Khao Soi is a delightful combination of flavors that will leave you craving more.
2. Tum Mak Hoong (Spicy Papaya Salad)
Tum Mak Hoong in Laos, or in Thailand often called Son Tam, which means Papaya Salad. This zesty dish combines shredded green papaya, cherry tomatoes, lime juice, fish sauce, chilies, and peanuts. All are pounded and mixed in a wooden mortar, creating a harmonious balance of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. However, in Laos, instead of adding fish sauce like Thai papaya salad, they add Padaek, a type of fish sauce but thick. It has a richer and more distinctive flavor, making the dish extremely impressive.
You can easily encounter this dish on the streets of Laos. Usually, when you order, they will start making. You can directly see them pounding the papaya and mixing it on the spot, then wrapping it in a bag for you to take away. This dish is often eaten with shrimp chips and they are also often served in the Laos Hotels.
3. Lam (Luang Prabang Buffalo Stew)
Lam is a staple dish in Laos, and it’s a culinary masterpiece that showcases the country’s love for grilled meat. Typically made with chunks of marinated meat, herbs, spices, and sticky rice, this dish is wrapped in banana leaves and slow-cooked over an open fire. The result is a tender and smoky delight that will leave you craving for seconds.
The best way to savor this dish is to enjoy some Laos beer. This is one of the best choices when sipping with beer. All will combine to create an explosion of flavor.
4. Kanom Krok (Laos Pancake)
If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on Kanom Krok, a popular Lao street snack. These bite-sized coconut pancakes are cooked in a special cast-iron pan, resulting in a crispy outer layer and a soft, fluffy center. Whether enjoyed plain or topped with coconut cream or palm sugar syrup, Kanom Krok is a delectable treat that will satisfy your dessert cravings.
5. Khao Niew Muk Muang (Mango Sticky Rice)
For a taste of tropical indulgence, indulge in Mango Sticky Rice, a beloved Lao dessert. This heavenly treat combines fragrant sticky rice, ripe mangoes, and a drizzle of sweet coconut cream. Not too sweet like in Thailand and also very popular in Laos, you only need to spend a small amount of money to enjoy the combination of the warm, sticky rice with the juicy and sweet mangoes is a match made in dessert heaven.
6. Larb (Laos Salad)
Larb is a beloved Lao salad that showcases the country’s bold and vibrant flavors. This traditional dish features minced meat (such as chicken, beef, or fish) mixed with a medley of fresh herbs, lime juice, fish sauce, and chilies. It is served with raw cabbage and raw cowpeas. The result is a mouthwatering explosion of tangy, spicy, and aromatic flavors that will awaken your taste buds.
7. Laos Beer
To complement your street food adventures, indulge in a refreshing glass of Laos Beer. This is the national beer of Laos, known for its refreshing and crisp taste. Brewed with high-quality ingredients and traditional techniques, it’s a light lager with a smooth flavor profile. This golden beer pairs well with the bold flavors of Lao cuisine and is often enjoyed over ice in warm weather.
For the best experience, you can go to the Laos beer shop, choose some dishes was recommended above (all of these usually on the menu of the shop) then sip some Laos beer and immerse yourself in the tranquil and slow Laos people’s life, such as witness they do the exercise, hold markets or trade and transport goods in the morning.
8. Savanakhet chicken
Baked Savanakhet chicken (in the South of Laos) is famous for its attractive fragrance. However, you don’t need to find out the way to Savanakhet to taste this food; you can enjoy Savanakhet chicken on every street in Vientiane, Luang Prabang, or many other places in Laos.
Chickens are fed in the countryside; they are not locked so their meat is fragrant and unique sweet. After being cleaned, chickens are clamped into bamboo sticks and put onto the charcoal stove to grill. Savanakhet chicken cuisine is served with white sticky rice and “cheo boong”. The flavor of chicken melts in your mouth with the fragrance, spice, and sourness of sauce will make you ecstatic and unforgettable. You just need to pay about 60,000 Kips for each chicken.
9. Some dishes that are processed from insects
Visiting Laos, walking around streets and markets in Laos, you can easily see many foods that are processed from insects. Similar to Cambodia and Thailand, cuisines from insects are popular in Laos. There are so many dishes processed from insects such as crickets, belostomatids, spiders, ants, or even grubs. People can make fried or steamed cuisines from insects. They are all delicious; however, you have to be brave enough to try tasting these strange foods. Also, you can have a small piece of insects tasted before buying them. Cuisines from insects look quite attractive but not all of us can eat because it depends on our bravery.
10. Khao Poon (Rice Vermicelli Soup)
This is another tasty noodle soup made with vermicelli noodles and coconut-based soup. Which showcases the harmonious blend of flavors and textures. It is a spicy and aromatic soup made with rice vermicelli noodles, tender meat (such as chicken or pork), and a rich, coconut-based curry broth. The soup is often infused with fragrant herbs, such as lemongrass and galangal, and spiced with chili paste, lime juice, and fish sauce. Topped with fresh herbs, like cilantro and mint, and crispy fried noodles, Khao Poon is a delightful explosion of flavors.
11. Sai Oua (Laos Sausage)
Sai Oua is a traditional Lao sausage that is beloved for its robust and aromatic profile. Made with ground pork or beef, Sai Oua is seasoned with an enticing blend of herbs and spices, including lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, and chili. These flavorful ingredients give the sausage a fragrant and slightly tangy taste. Sai Oua is often grilled or pan-fried to perfection, resulting in a crispy and juicy sausage that can be enjoyed on its own or as a delicious addition to Lao meals.
12. Khaipen (Fried Seaweed) with Jaew Bong
Khai Pen is a unique Lao specialty that is a favorite among locals. These crispy riverweed snacks are made from freshwater algae that are harvested from rivers and streams in Laos. The algae are seasoned with various ingredients, such as garlic, sesame seeds, and salt, before being deep-fried until they turn crispy and golden brown.
Khai Pen is typically enjoyed as a crunchy snack on its own or served as an accompaniment to Lao meals. Its unique texture and savory taste make it an interesting and addictive treat.
13. Khao Jee (Laos Baguette Sandwich)
Khao Jee, also known as the Laos baguette sandwich (the same as Banh Mi in Vietnam). You can find this simple yet delicious dish on almost every street corner when you travel to Laos. It reflects the French influence in Lao cuisine. It consists of a crusty baguette that is filled with a variety of ingredients. Common fillings include grilled or marinated meat (such as pork or chicken), pâté, fresh herbs, pickled vegetables, and spicy sauces. The combination of flavors and textures in Khao Jee creates a satisfying and portable meal that is perfect for a quick bite on the go.
Laos’ street food scene is a gastronomic adventure waiting to be explored. From the comforting Khao Soi to the fiery Tum Mak Hoong, each dish offers a unique blend of flavors that reflects the country’s culinary heritage. So, grab your chopsticks and embark on a journey through the streets of Laos to savor the mouthwatering delights of street food.
From Indochina Voyages Travel Specialist