Inside Asia Tours: Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos

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Thursday, 2nd April 2015

Why has Laotian food not been widely exported to the rest of the world?

In just about any city of the world you will find at least one Thai or Vietnamese restaurant, but Laotian cuisine is not so ubiquitous. Why should this be the case? Here is our guide to everything you need to know about the food of Laos.

The basics

Laotian food has a strong emphasis on fresh vegetables and herbs, which means what you are served will depend on the time of year you are visiting the country. The region will also have an impact, as seasonal ingredients that are produced locally make up the main components of dishes in Lao.

One thing you are guaranteed to eat a lot of, is sticky rice, as this steamed rice, which has a higher level of natural sugar than other varieties, is served with most meals. Usually, it comes in a small bamboo basket and variations include black or purple sticky rice.

The fact that the rice sticks together is particularly useful in a culture that shuns utensils most of the time. This means that the majority of dishes that accompany the sticky rice are relatively dry and served at room temperature. Served any other way and you would likely end up in quite a mess.

Food from Laos is generally low in fat, as ingredients including fish and meat are steamed or grilled. These meats are often buffalo, pork or poultry, but the vegetables are still usually the main feature of a dish.

Classic Laotian dishes

Khao piak sen

Where better to start than with breakfast and this dish is how most Laotians begin their day. Khao piak sen is sold from shops, stalls and carts along many of the main roads, making it the perfect thing to pick up by locals on their way to work. Unusually for Laotian food, this bowl of thick or regular noodles is served up in a broth, with chicken or pork to choose from.


For lunch try laap, a minced meat salad, which is usually made from chicken, buffalo or duck. The mince is then mixed with spices and grains of rice that have been dried and then crushed. Laap is officially the national dish of Laos and can be prepared in various ways, but is typically eaten with raw vegetables and sticky rice.

Lao sausage

When it comes to a hearty snack on the go, you can't beat some Lao sausage. All of the flavours of the country seem to be embodied inside the casing, with lemongrass, shallots, kaffir lime leaves and cilantro all enhancing the taste of the pork. An extra kick comes from the fish sauce that is also normally used in its preparation.


Luang Prabang is often credited for being the birthplace of lam, a stew of beans, aubergines, green onion, lemongrass, basil and chillies, with some buffalo meat often added. It is given a distinctive smoky, peppery flavour from the bark of the chilli tree, which scraped into the mixture.

Related news stories:
5 things to remember around Laotian wild animals (8th December 2015)
How to live like a local in Laos (28th January 2016)
Eat your way through Luang Prabang?s night market (26th May 2016)
10 reasons to make Laos your next destination (16th September 2015)