If you’re looking to thrill your taste buds, Laotian food is what you need to experience that thrill. It’s vibrant, colorful, packed with herbs and chilies, and the combinations of ingredients are guaranteed to expands your palate’s horizons.
Read on to find out the best dishes Laos has to offer, complied exclusively by Asia’s Food Experts at Ricebowl Asia.
1. Sien Savanh
Sien Savanh are small bites of beef, marinated in garlic, pepper, palm sugar and soy or oyster sauce, and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. The marinated beef is left to dry in the sun’s rays to find the perfect glaze. To finalize the product, roadside street vendors will grill the beef jerky to add a smoky flavor, resulting in the Lao version of beef jerky.
2. Green Papaya Salad
It is not uncommon for locals in Laos to consume fruits at various stages of ripeness, and from this tradition, green papaya salad was created. Visitors to Thailand may already be acquainted with the dish, as it is widely believed that it actually originated in Laos.
3. Mok Pa
A delicious Lao fish recipe originating from Luang Prabang, mok pa is an aromatic mixture of onions, garlic, and herbs enveloping slices of fresh fish filets wrapped and steamed in banana leaves. The national dish of Lao, it is available in restaurants and from street vendors. For those who dislike spicy food, this is a dish worth a try!
Jaew can refer to any type of dipping sauce, of which Laos has a never ending abundance. Made with a mortar and pestle, it’s the pounding action smashing ingredients together that makes the taste so delightfully strong. These dishes always contain chili peppers, and usually some type of grilled vegetable, giving them a distinct smoky flavor, and sometimes fermented fish.
5. Sai Oua Kuang
Sai Oua Kuang is deliciously seasoned herbal pork sausage. Each region has its own flavour profile with famed versions coming from Luang Prabang. The texture is a bit more crumbly than what you might be used to, but it’s aromatic and perfect for dipping in Jaew or eaten plain.
6. Aw Lam
Orlam is a spicy, peppery meat stew made from ingredients you would find in the wilderness: cloud ear mushrooms, bitter greens, pea eggplant and pepperwood. Water buffalo is usually used, with pork as a substitute. Be warned: This isn’t anything like a Thai coconut milk curry and it has very strong flavours.
7. Kaeng Jute
Unlike the spicy Aw Lam, Kaeng Jute is much more relaxed. It’s a subtly flavourful pork or chicken broth seasoned with lemongrass, garlic and cilantro. Often served with glass noodles, individuals can season it to taste with one or more of the four condiments found on tables across the country: sugar, sliced chilis in vinegar, dried chilis and chilli paste.
8. Khao Piak Khao
A hearthy breakfast, Khaopiak Kaho or rice soup is a variation of the khaopiak (wet rice) fresh noodle soup. White rice is served in a chicken or pork broth with meats such beef, pork or chicken. The soup is served with lime and cilantro.
9. Lao Lao
This potent rice whisky (roughly 40% proof) is a popular liquor often found in rural areas of Laos. The whiskey is made from distilling sticky rice and crumbles of yeast balls, which results in a clear, powerful liquid that tastes a little bit like day old bread. For the more adventurous tourists, there are exotic blends with lizards, snakes and scorpions available to test.
10. Nam Vam
Nam Vam (pronounced naa va), is a tri-colour tapioca pearl drink that is enjoyed during big celebrations or on scourging hot days. Tropical fruits like jackfruit and mango may be added onto the tapioca pearls which come in different sizes. Laotians claim that this dessert inspired the Asian “bubble tea” since they both contain the tapioca pearl.