Laos Country Guide


Due to the geography that Laos shares with the north-eastern region of Thailand, Lao cuisine is very similar to the food eaten in the Thai region. In fact, dishes in Northeastern Thailand are influenced by Lao cuisine. Generally, Lao dishes are very spicy, more often bitter than sweet and using lots of fresh herbs and vegetables served raw. Some of the raw vegetables can be used to cool your mouth when the chillies are overwhelming hot.
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Like the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is the staple diet and the standard kind here is sticky rice ("khao niaow"). The Lao people are the largest consumer of sticky rice than anywhere else in the world that they sometimes refer themselves as "Luk Khao Niaow" meaning "children of the sticky rice". 
The rice is traditionally eaten by hand from small baskets called "tip khao" - use your right hand, pinch off a bit, roll into a ball, dip and munch away.

The national dish is "laap", comprising minced meat mixed with herbs, spices, lime juice and more often than not, blistering amounts of chillies. Another Lao invention is "tam maak hung", a spicy green papaya salad known as "som tam" in Thailand but dressed with fermented crabs and a chunky, intense fish sauce called "pa daek", resulting in a stronger flavour than the milder, sweeter Thai style. Other popular dishes include "ping kai", spicy grilled chicken and "mok pa", fish steamed in banana leaf.

"Laap" dish by Jpatokal

Foreign Dishes
In addition to purely Lao food, culinary imports from other countries are common. "Khao jii pat-te" is a French baguettes stuffed with pate and "pho" is noodles from China - both ubiquitous snacks particularly popular at breakfast. Note that "pho" can refer both to thin rice noodles (Vietnamese "pho") as well as the wide flat noodles that would be called "kuay tiow" in Thailand.

Lao Coffee
Lao coffee ("kaafeh") is recognised to be of very high quality. It's grown on the Bolaven Plateau in Southern Laos and the best brand is Lao Mountain Coffee. Unlike Thai coffees, Lao coffee is not flavoured with ground tamarind seed. To make sure you aren't fed overpriced NescafĂ©, be sure to ask for "kaafeh thung". "Kaafeh lao" comes with sugar and condensed milk, "kaafeh dam" is black coffee and "kaafeh nom" is coffee with milk.

Coffeeshop in Vientiane by Dragfyre

Country Guide

Laos Hotels
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