In the landlocked country of Laos, food is the topic for various conversations. Especially, people can greet each other by “Have you eaten anything?” (Kin khao laeo bor?). I have to say that Laos food is unique and you can find no where but come to this beautiful country to taste its delicacies. The best way to explore Laos cuisine is to go through its popular local food list. Now, let me introduce to you top 10 Laos food that you must try at least once when having chance to visit this lovely country.
Kaipen (Fried Seaweed)
Kaipen or fried seaweed is a popular snack in Laos, rich in minerals and necessary vitamins. This snack is made of freshwater green algae and sesame seeds. The algae used to make kaipen is called kai. It is harvested from the bottom of rivers in Luang Prabang during dry season. Then kai is washed and hung to dry. Kai leaves can be eaten by themselves or used as flavours to other Laos food. Before served, Kaipen sheets are fried in a pan. This snack normally goes with a kind of chilli paste called Jaew Bong.
Khao Jee Sandwich (Baguette Sandwich)
Laotian sandwich or Khao Jee is a well-known Laos food on streets. For me, there is nothing better than a bite of Khao Jee and a cup of coffee to start the day, which is listed among best things to do in Laos. Khao Jee sandwich is quite similar to Banh mi of Vietnam. The baguette is cut in half and filled with carrot, pork, sliced tomatoes, onion, cheese, chopped ham, chili sauce and lettuce, all are combined in a tasty bite, enclosed with a crispy layer outside. Above is a mouthwatering look of Khao Jee.
Khao Poon (Rice Vermicelli Soup)
Khao Poon is called the noodles of Laos, so when talking about Laotian rice soup, khao poon is always listed on top. The main ingredients include rice vermicelli, pork (or chicken or fish), vegetables and aromatic herbs. All of these are served inside a bowl of coconut milk broth. Due to its variety of ingredients – a characteristics of Laos food or Laos cuisine – there are many variants of khao pun. However, no matter which kind of khao poon it is, a serving always has 4 components. First is khao poon noodles or rice vermicelli. Second is spicy soup (with or without fish sauce, with or without coconut milk). Third is vegetables at the bottom. And finally is a little meat. Lime, chilli or soy sauce are also added to individual taste.
Lao Sausage – One of the best Laos food in Luang Prabang
Laotian sausage (Sai Uah or Sai Gork) is a popular type of sausage in Laos, especially well-known as one of the best Laos food in Luang Prabang. Almost every marriage, festival or religious ceremony includes this delicacy in their menu. And I’m sure this sausage is unlike any other kinds of sausage you have tried. Pork is mixed with kaffir leaves, shallots, cilantro, galangal and lemongrass. So many flavors! This dish is often eaten with some sticky rice.
Some people say that Laap (also spelled like larb or lahp, etc) is a national dish of Laos food because it is the country’s original dish and under no effect from any other culinary like Vietnam or Thailand. Laap is a kind of pork salad flavoured with fish sauce, garlic, mint leaves, onion, toasted rice and lime. Instead of pork, chicken, beef, buffalo, duck or even fish can be used as a replaca. The vegan version of Laap is made of mushroom or tofu instead of meat. Laap can be raw and cooked. But for the sake of your stomach, I will not suggest you to eat the raw version, except laap of luxury restaurant with high hygiene standard.
Tam Mak Hoong or papaya salad
Tam Mak Hoong is another spicy treat that Laos food offers to its gourmet tourists. This is also called “Papaya pok pok” due to the sound it makes when pounding the pestle. The main ingredient is shredded unripe papaya, similar to Gỏi đu đủ of Vietnam and Som tam of Thailand. Apart from papaya, Tam Mak Hoong combines totally 5 main tastes together: hot chili, sour lime, savory fish sauce, sweet palm sugar and salty. Tam Mak Hoong sold on roadside is very cheap, only 5,000 kip for a serving but it can go up to 25,000 kip in restaurants.
Som Moo (Sour Pork Sausage)
Som Moo is a kind of fermented and sour pork sausage, very similar to Vietnamese nem chua and Thai name; so, another Laos food that have brothers and sisters overseas. Som Moo is made from raw pork and pork skin. Sometimes, it is wrapped inside star gooseberry leaves or banana leaves to add more flavour.
Lao Beef Jerky
Laos beef jerky makes a great beer snack and it could be a life saver dish for any travelers who are not really into the Asian cuisine in general or Laos food in specific. Sitting in a small shop, eating beef jerky, chatting with locals and drinking some beer is also among the recommended things to do in Laos.
Naem Khao is another popular Laos food. It is crispy rice salad mixed with som moo – the sour sausage. Some other ingredients include chopped peanuts, mint, challots, grated coconut, lime, fish sauce and etc.
Mok Pa is Lao steamed fish, wrapped in banana leaves, bringing the exotic taste of Laos food. This dish is appreciated by tourists as being not spicy and only using fish, herbs and vegetables, really healthy.
Please share with me if you find any other tasty dish. I’m sure that this list will go on and on, along with the development of Laos cuisine. Hope you enjoy our top 10 Laos food that are worth a try.