Top 10 Lao Dishes

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Lao food is distinct from other Asia cuisines, although it is somewhat similar to the food found in the northeastern part of Thailand in the area known as Isan. Most Lao dishes contain vegetables and herbs, rice or noodles and fish, chicken, pork or beef. The freshness of the ingredients is very important to Lao people who like to prepare everything from scratch, rather than use pre-prepared ingredients, as they believe this makes their food more delicious. Herbs such as galangal and lemongrass are favourites and padaek (Lao fish sauce) is found on every table.

>> Sour soup – Canh chua

1. Sticky rice (Khao Niaw)

Sticky rice is a staple throughout the country. It is commonly said that Lao citizens eat more sticky rice than anyone else in the world. It is traditionally steamed in a cone-shaped bamboo basket, and placed in a covered basket where it is eaten alongside many dishes. In Laos, there should always be sticky rice available to eat at any time of day.

2. Minced Meat Salad (Larb)

This dish is a type of minced meat salad, and widely considered to be the national dish of Laos. You can find Larb made with chicken, beef, duck, fish, or pork. It is usually flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, fermented fish juice, ground rice, and fresh herbs. It will usually come with a few chili peppers, which you can avoid eating if you cannot handle spicy food. Larb is an essential dish to pair with sticky rice.

3. Green Papaya Salad (Tam Mak Hoong)

This dish is a type of minced meat salad, and widely considered to be the national dish of Laos. You can find Larb made with chicken, beef, duck, fish, or pork. It is usually flavored with fish sauce, lime juice, fermented fish juice, ground rice, and fresh herbs. It will usually come with a few chili peppers, which you can avoid eating if you cannot handle spicy food. Larb is an essential dish to pair with sticky rice.

Mok Pa via Active Travel Asia

4. Steamed Fish (Mok Pa)

Mok Pa is steamed fish that is typically wrapped up in banana leaves and tied with bamboo string. It is prepared with lemongrass, kaffir leaves, green onions, fish sauce, green chilis, shrimp paste, and fresh dill. All these ingredients are mixed together with steamed fish. Mok Pa should never be served dry, and is also another dish that must be paired with sticky rice.

5. Baguette Paté (Khao Jii Paté)

Due to its French influence, delicious baguettes are commonly found on many streets in Laos. This baguette sandwich largely resembles a Vietnamese Banh Mi, but instead of using cilantro and pickles, the Lao version consists of watercress, grated carrots, and a good amount of chile-garlic sauce. It is a quick meal that can be enjoyed on the go for either breakfast or lunch.

6. Wet Noodles (Khao Piak Sen)

Khao Piak Sen is a chewy noodle soup that has a similar consistency to Udon, but it is made with rice instead of wheat. It is considered to be a comfort food in Laos, typically made with pork or chicken, lemongrass, galangal, shallots, garlic, chopped coriander leaves, bean sprouts, and served with freshly sliced limes. The most crucial factor is the broth, which should be slowly cooked with bones for the best flavor. At many restaurants, you will be encouraged to add in your own amount of sugar, chili sauce, dried chili powder, fish sauce, or soy sauce.

7. Crispy Rice Salad (Naem Khao Tod)

Nam Khao Tod is a fresh salad from Laos that is made with deep-fried rice balls, chunks of soured pork sausage, peanuts, grated coconut, fish sauce, dried chili peppers, and other ingredients. It is traditionally eaten as a warp by filling the individual lettuce leaves with the Nam Khao mixture, topped with fresh herbs and dried chilis. Crispy Rice Salad is usually served as an appetizer and it is slowly gaining popularity in the West. However, we recommend eating this dish with locals in Laos for a truly authentic experience.

Crispy Rice Salad (Naem Khao Tod) via SheSimmers

8. Lao Sausages (Sai Uah, Sai Gok)

Lao-style sausages are an herb-infused meat that are unlike any other sausage you have tried before. These pork sausages are mixed with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir leaves, shallots, cilantro, chillies, and fish sauce. You may also find another variant of this sausage in Laos, known as Soured Lao sausage. In addition to the above ingredients, sticky rice is included and the sausage sits outside for a couple of days before it becomes sour. Sausages are essential to many dishes, and must be eaten by hand with sticky rice.

9. Noodle Soup (Phor)

This noodle soup is a variant of the Vietnamese soup, Phô. It is prepared in a beef broth, and served with alongside a basket of fresh herbs, chilis, limes, and bean sprouts. It is one of the most common soup dishes to find in the country, and the ingredients vary depending on if you are visiting the North or the South of Laos. When ordering a bowl of Pho, you will usually be asked if you want thin or thick rice noodles. After being served, add in some sugar or fresh chilis to match your desired taste and enjoy!

10. Lao Beer (Bia Lao)

While Lao beer is not technically food, it is an essential companion of any dish when your in the country. It is the most famous brand of beer found in Laos, and widely considered to be the best tasting beer in the region. Lao beer is traditionally served with ice in small glasses, where it is enjoyed amongst friends and families. If you find yourself invited for a glass, be prepared to finish a few more bottles than you may expect!

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