Top 5 Dishes You Should Try When Travelling to Laos

Laos, the “Land of a Million Elephants”, possesses a charming beauty decorated by Mekong River like a potentially valued jewelry that is rarely touched by tourists all over the world. Indeed, not only does Laos lure visitors by its spectacular landscapes, historical monuments, or traditional festivals but this country also makes a strong impression on its culinary art. If you have an opportunity to take a trip to this tiny land, please do not forget trying a wide range of unique cuisines there.

Here are 10 not-to-be-missed dishes for your memorable journey in Laos!

1. Tum Mak Hoong (Green Papaya Salad)

While numerous variations of green papaya salad are easily found all over Southeast Asia, this dish is most likely originated in Laos. The rapid spreading speed makes it a recognized Thai cuisine (Som Tam) which is listed in the “World's 50 most delicious dishes” published by CNN Go in 2011 for its unique spiciness and flavor.

When it comes to Green Papaya Salad, it is like an excellent introduction to Southeast Asian food due to its ability to clearly demonstrate the five main tastes of the local cuisine consisting of salty, sweet, hot, sour, and savory. In terms of material, Tam Mak Hoong is a combination of varying ingredients like sliced unripe papaya, bean, peanuts, chili, soft-shelled crab, hog plum, pickled fish sauce and lime. Eating this cuisine with sticky rice is a recommended option.

Tam Mak Hoong often costs around 10,000 Kip

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2. Kiao Niaw (Laotian Sticky Rice)

As explained by Deinla, who is the Chef of Phu Doi Restaurant in Luang Prabang: “Soak the uncooked glutinous rice overnight. Then wash it several times before steaming in a bamboo basket. Halfway through the steaming process, gently flip the rice over”. Thanks to this secret, Kiao Niaw which mainly contains glutinous rice with higher amount of sugar than any other regular rice, becomes the Laotians’ national dish of all time. 

Normally, white or black sticky rice is steamed in mango or coconut oil, sometimes mixed with red or black beans. This traditional dish has a wide range of variations, typically brown sticky rice, or sticky rice stuffed inside a bamboo tube and then grilled. As a rule, Laotians tend to eat Kiao Niaw with the fingers, by first rolling it in the hand and then dipping into tasty sauces. Perhaps, no one can deny a hot Kiao Niaw bamboo tube when all of ingredients have sufficiently mixed and melted together into a perfect sweetness.

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3. Larb (Minced Meat Salad)

Coming to Laos without trying the most emblematic of Laotian cuisine - Larb, a minced meat salad, will make you regret. Commonly, this dish can be made from different meat types (beef, pork, chicken, duck, or buffalo) or fish. In particular, along with this main ingredient are aromatic herbs (mint and coriander), roasted and pulverized glutinous rice, chili and lime juice for making Larb more delicious. Normally, Lao restaurants often serve their dear guests with a big plate of salad, mint and other herbs, all accompanied by sticky rice.

Traditionally, Larb is always prepared especially during the wedding procession as a symbol of good luck, fortune, and success as the word meaning itself.

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4. Mok Pa (Steamed Fish)

Normally, everyone tends to regard Steamed fish or Mok Pa as a dish typically wrapped up in banana leaves and tied with bamboo string.

However, what can make it more exotic than a fish wrapped in banana leave?

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To be honest, this well-liked dish has a tendency for revealing all its flavor of fresh herbs after being slowly cooked with the steam and infused with the attractive perfume of the banana leave.  Moreover, it is also carefully prepared with lemongrass, kaffir leaves, green onions, fish sauce, green chili, shrimp paste, and fresh dill as well. Then, all of these ingredients are mixed together with already steamed fish will surely make you impressed on Mok Pa’s taste.

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5. Khao Piak Sen (Lao Noodle Soup)

Every morning on the way to wander along the Lao streets, you' will pass by various shops, sidewalk stalls, or carts serving up Khao Piak Sen. Literally translated as wet rice strands, this top-notch noodle dish is probably the most common one in the top list of Lao cuisines. Apart from offering for breakfast, it also makes good taste for lunch and dinner.

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What makes this delicious soup bowl beloved by everyone is that it generally comes as beef or chicken served in broth over flat rice noodles and flavorings of fresh herbs. Along with these main ingredients are other optional ones such as chilli oil, lime juice, bean sprouts, long beans, holy basil and cilantro, which will be perfect for the cold weather. Specifically, a large number of soup versions definitely let tourists freely choose which one to experience in the most comfortable feeling.

The price of Khao Piak Sen is about 10,000 Kip or 40 Baht.

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Brian Vu

Working for a travel company is a big chance for me to feel love with travel. Specially, leisure is not my style, riding motorbike to discover everywhere is really great for my trips. On each miles I reach, I get opportunity to learn more about the local culture, to see ... [View Details...]