Inside Asia Tours: Vietnam, Cambodia & Laos

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Thursday, 11th August 2016

Turn up the spice in Laos

There’s plenty of delicious food to try during your trip to Laos, but if you consider yourself something of a chilli head then you’ll be interested in the spicy dishes. Fear not, you will not be disappointed, as the Laotians like to use chillies in a number of ways. Read on to find out about spicy dishes you’re bound to encounter in Laos.


The first place to start on any spicy tour of Laos is with laap. This ground meat salad is prepared with toasted ground rice, lime juice and fish sauce, but the most important ingredient is the bird chillies, which pack quite a punch. While there are regional differences in laap recipes, most are served with a selection of fresh vegetables and mint to provide a cooling effect in contrast to the spiciness of the dish.

Green papaya salad

You may think that a salad made from green papaya would be anything but spicy, although one of the main ingredients is chilli. Add fish sauce, sour lime juice, salt and sugar and you’re left with a flavoursome dish that is a real taste sensation.

Lao beef jerky with tomato and chilli dip

A popular snack in Laos is strips of beef that have been marinated in fish sauce, garlic, spices and sesame seeds before being dried in the sun. They are then deep fried and served with jaew maak len, a tomato and chilli dip that really hits the spot.

Khao poon

This popular Laotian soup is made with rice noodles and variations of it can be found throughout the country. It can be cooked with fish, chicken or pork, but it is the broth that is the main attraction. Its base is created with coconut milk, but it’s highly flavoured with ginger, lemongrass, garlic and lime leaves. Don’t forget the chilli either, which gives it a distinctive fiery quality.

Jeow bong

If the meal you’ve ordered in Laos doesn’t come up to your required spice levels, then there’s a simple way to ramp them up – with jeow bong. This chilli paste is both spicy and sweet, with everyone in the country having their own favoured recipe. It lasts for a really long time and most establishments will have some in storage. As well as being used to pep up dishes, it can also be eaten by dipping into sticky rice or scooped up on Laos riverweed.

Related news stories:
What to know before you go to Laos (23rd April 2015)
The Laos reading list (6th October 2015)
10 reasons to make Laos your next destination (16th September 2015)
The iconic temples of Laos (15th December 2014)