The wonderful world of Lao Cuisine

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Date: November 2nd 2017
Traveller: Carla Rijnders
Instead of asking ‘How are you?’ the people in Laos ask ‘Have you eaten?’. This is how important food is in this country! Knowing this, you can imagine Lao people are very proud of their national cuisine, and they love sharing their traditional dishes with everyone visiting their country.

Even though the Lao cuisine is very similar to its neighbours (Thailand and Vietnam), there are definitely some differences. For instance, each and every meal in Lao start off with sticky rice – or well at least 90% of the dishes as soups are not included! When you head into the countryside, people still eat family style, sitting on the floor sharing several different dishes. And wherever you go, for Lao people it’s very important that the ingredients are fresh, as they like to prepare everything from scratch. Here are some of the Lao dishes that you can’t miss when you’re visiting the country:

- Laab (also known as laap or larp): This is a delicious minced meat salad. It can be made of chicken, beef, duck, fish or pork – it’s your choice. It’s always flavoured with fish sauce, limejuice and fresh herbs. It usually goes with rice on the side and some vegetables that can cool down your palette, such as green beans or white cabbage.
- Oh Lam: This stew originates from the Hmong people of Luang Prabang. It’s made from vegetables such as beans, eggplants, gourds and black mushrooms. It is then seasoned with lemongrass, chilli and coriander. To thicken it, sticky rice is thrown in the mix too! Everything in the kitchen can be thrown in this stew, but one thing is very important to be added and that is the sa kan, a bitter root herb. It takes a long time to prepare, so it’s not often found on the menu of a restaurant, so if you do see it, take your chance and enjoy this delicious meal!
- Khao Jee Sandwich: as Laos was part of the French Indochina for 60 years, it’s not strange that you will find some French-inspired dishes along the way. Khao Jee Sandwich is a sandwich filled with lettuce, carrots, tomatoes with your choice of luncheon meat (pate or chopped ham) and a drizzle of chilli garlic sauce. A great lunch snack you can find on almost every street corner!
- Tam mak houng: when you see this meal you’d think that this papaya salad is the same as the Thai som tam, but then you’re mistaken. Yes, the main ingredient of unripe papaya is the same, but the Tam mak houng does not have peanuts and is usually made with fermented fish sauce. Other ingredients found in this dish are palm sugar, tomatoes, dried shrimp, chilli, garlic, lime and raw eggplant.
- Sien Savanh: Lao-style beef jerky goes very well with a Lao beer, or with sticky rice and tomato based chilli dip as the locals do. The marinated beef is first sundried on the roadside, after which it is grilled to add a smoky beef jerky flavour.

Want to know our favourite places to eat in Vientiane and Luang Prabang? Head over to our website for more info!

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