Surrounded by better known China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar, the verdant, land-locked country of Laos is a cultural treasure trove and one of the highlights of our South East Asia Adventure Tours. Lao cuisine is distinctive from that of its neighbours, characterised by an abundance of sticky rice, which is the nation’s staple food, as well as marinated fish and meat dishes and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Here are our favourite Lao dishes to look out for while on your trip.
It’s hard to avoid sticky rice, or khao niao while in Laos. In fact Lao people consume more of the stuff than any other country on earth. We’re happy to report, therefore, that it’s delicious! Most often moulded into balls and eaten by hand to accompany savoury dishes, it is also used in some desserts (more of which later).
This hearty salad dish is made from fried sticky rice balls, a fermented sausage called som moo, lime juice, fish sauce and an assortment of fresh herbs. The soft and crunchy texture combinations and the zingy flavours in the dressing make nam khao a must-try.
This minced meat salad originated in Laos and has since become popular throughout South East Asia. Considered the country’s national dish, if you’re of the omnivorous persuasion, this is another great one to try. The salad can be made with minced beef, chicken, pork, fish or duck as its base, and can either be served cooked or raw. It is seasoned with fish sauce, lime juice, ground roasted rice and garnished with herbs.
This delicious vegetarian dish combines the earthy flavour of grilled mushrooms with zesty lime juice and lemongrass, as well as soy sauce, mint, coriander and a smattering of hot chilli.
If you’ve had a few too many Beerlaos the night before, a soothing bowl of kaeng jute noodles could be just the ticket. Not overly punchy in flavour, this simple chicken or pork based broth is served with rice noodles and seasoned with garlic, lemongrass and coriander.
The Lao version of green papaya salad (a dish also popular in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia) has the distinctive additions of black crab and Laos’ staple condiment padek – a kind of fish sauce.
This popular dessert is made up of a mixture of sticky rice, sugar, coconut and red beans, which is then moulded and cooked inside a dried bamboo stick. A delicious and relatively healthy way to round off your meal.