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Travel consultant Dylan is a huge fan of Laos, not least of all its underrated food scene. He insists that the most delicious rewards can be found by looking beyond the cuisine of those famous neighbouring countries with these top foodie experiences.
Food in Laos
Laos is a wonderful country known for having stunning scenery, countryside, waterfalls, pagodas and incredibly laidback people, as well as being the “land of a million elephants”.
What many don’t know much about however is the incredible food scene. It may be lesser known than neighbouring countries of Thailand and Vietnam but is certainly not any less tasty.
With the most to see and do, the charming town of Luang Prabang is the hub for most trips to Laos, and conveniently a great place to start your foodie journey. Whether you want to learn about farming and rice cultivation, take cookery classes or dig into extravagant meals, Luang Prabang has it all.
My favourite food experience in Laos is at the wonderful Living Land Farm; here you can take part in all 14 stages of rice cultivation, including the most important of all: eating. The farm is a wonderfully-run project and with many different rice paddies, you can learn about each stage of cultivation.
Planting rice seeds in a fresh paddy, threshing down fully-grown rice and best of all – apart from the eating, of course – is ploughing the rice paddy with your water buffalo! Finish the day by making sugar cane juice and sit down with the family to enjoy a delicious lunch of different flavoured and textured rice dishes.
For a more exotic farming location, stop off at the buffalo farm near the Kuang Si Waterfall to learn all about buffalo dairy products, such as cheese, yoghurt and ice cream. Take a tour and learn about these majestic creatures before sampling the many products they create.
One of the best parts of visiting Kuang Si is having a meal in front of the beautiful falls. Avoid the crowds by heading here for breakfast, enjoying the peaceful serenity that the monks fell in love with.
There are so many dinner options in Luang Prabang, including the spectacular Paste restaurant, where you can experience fine dining at its best; it’s headed by Michelin-Star chef Bee Satongun, awarded Best Female Chef in Asia in 2018. For something a little more romantic, go for a candle-lit dinner at the 3Nagas Restaurant.
If community projects and giving back to the local area is more your style make a beeline for Kaiphaen, a fabulous restaurant that trains disadvantaged youths in the area, providing training and career development.
To take the taste of Laos home with you, sign up for a cookery class at Tamarind Restaurant. Here you’ll learn how to make traditional Lao cuisine before sitting down to try your handiwork! You will also be given a cook book to practice your cooking skills at home, a great way to share your travels with friends and family.
Tea and coffee plantations
Away from Luang Prabang there are many wonderful food-based experiences throughout the country. Southern Laos is internationally renowned for having some of the worlds best coffee, so a visit to the region is a must for coffee connoisseurs.
The beautiful Bolaven Plateau is also home to some of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular waterfalls. Learn about the cultivation and process of growing tea and coffee at the plantations, trying lots of samples as you go along. For an authentic home-cooked meal, and that delicious smell of coffee first thing in the morning, it’s possible to arrange spending a night with a family in the area.
In Vientiane, the capital city, you can enjoy a sunset foodie adventure tasting some of Laos’s most famous dishes; with a variety of flavours, sights and smells it promises to be a fun evening.
But for a traditional night out, spend an evening at a Laotian barbecue (sin dat) followed by playing everyone’s favourite game – pétanque. This friendly atmosphere is a great opportunity to make new friends in a place fellow travellers rarely visit. Arrive hungry – all food and beer is included.