Lao cuisine is not well known in the western world, but did you know that there are more ethnic Lao living in Thailand than in Laos. A majority of the people living in Northeastern Thailand are ethnically Lao, and Lao cuisine played a pivotal role in making Thai food an international phenomenon. In this list I will go over my top 5 eats in Laos!
1. Lao Sausage
Found in every night market, the Lao people love their sausages and I can see why! This sausage uses fattier pork and is seasoned with lots of herbs such as lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, cilantro, chillies, and cooked with garlic, salt and fish sauce. The flavours of this sausage is something unique. The strong herbs complements the fatty meat. You can find these sausages for only 10,000 LAK ($1.55 CAD)!
2. Grilled Pork
Another staple in a Lao night market. You can find numerous vendors selling different kinds of grilled meat from “normal” meats such as chickens, pork, and fish to more “adventurous” pieces of meat such as frogs, quails, catfish, and different kinds of organs. My favourite grilled meat would have to the BBQ pork. A good mix of meat and fat are seasoned and grilled to perfection. Make sure to ask for a FREE side of cabbage or a papaya salad
to go with your meat. Prices range from size but you can buy each skewer for 5,000 to 10,000 LAK ($0.78 to $1.55 CAD)
3. Baguette Sandwiches
One of the best impacts of the French colonization of Laos is these baguette sandwiches. A French-Lao fusion. The main difference between the Vietnamese banh mi and the Lao version is that instead of using cilantro and pickles, the Lao version uses peppery watercress and grated fresh carrots. There are many variations of this sandwich such as ham, tuna, cheese, and chicken. My favourite one has to be the fried chicken one I had in Vang Vieng. It definitely hit the spot after a night of drinking (which there are a lot of in Vang Vieng). They are also the cheapest meal you can get as a sandwich is only 10,000 LAK ($1.55 CAD)!
4. Papaya Salad (tam som)
One of Thailand’s most popular dish actually has its roots from the ethnic Lao people. This spicy salad made from shredded unripe papaya mixed with sour lime, hot chili, salty, fish sauce, and palm sugar. Tomatoes, green beans, and peanuts are then added. The taste is pretty much the same as its Thai equivalent; tangy, spicy, sweet and crunchy. You can get a papaya salad at a night market for as low as 10,000 LAK ($1.55 CAD)!
5. Lao Khao Soi
Don’t confuse this dish with the one with the same name from Thailand. Popular in the Northern region of Laos, this is made with wide rice noodles, coarsely chopped pork, tomatoes, fermented soy beans, chillies, shallots, and garlic, then topped with bean sprouts, chopped scallions, and chopped cilantro. Very different compared to Thai version, with its rich, creamy soup base, and crispy noodles on top. I would say I enjoyed this dish as much as the Khao Soi in Thailand. A bowl of this will cost you 15,000 LAK ($2.33 CAD)
Other Lao eats I tried
- Sticky rice
- Green curry
- Yellow curry
- Mama salad (papaya salad with Mama instant noodles)
- Fried rice
- Noodle soup with meatballs
- Pho (not good)