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Laotian Food: 13 Must Try Traditional Dishes of Laos

Laotian Food: 13 Must Try Traditional Dishes of Laos

Laos is a country in Southeast Asia, bordered by China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Famous for its beautiful scenery, rich history and impressive temples, Laos is becoming a popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia.

Most Popular Laotian Dishes

Laotian cuisine takes inspiration from Indian and Thai food, often with strong flavors and combining sweet, salty, sour and spicy tastes. 

Many of the most popular dishes in Laos contain meat and are usually filled with a range of herbs, spices, chillies and other strong flavors. As the country is land-locked, dishes that require fresh fish usually call for freshwater fish which are easier to source.

Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice

Sticky rice is a staple food in Laos and is served at most meals at all times of day. Glutinous rice with a high sugar content is traditionally steamed in a bamboo basket, which makes the rice become sticky. 

This is traditionally eaten by balling up a portion of sticky rice in your hand and dipping it in a sauce, such as an aubergine or spicy tomato sauce. Sticky rice can be used for both sweet and savory dishes. The rice can be white, purple or black/brown; black rice is usually used for sweet dishes.

Larb (Minced Meat Salad)

Larb

Larb is a salad made of seasoned minced meat, with toasted brown rice, shallots and chillies. This salad is enjoyed as a simple, hearty meal for lunch or dinner. 

The meats are traditionally fried with fish sauce and seasoned with lime juice, cilantro and mint. Chicken, beef, pork, duck or fish can be incorporated in the salad which is often served with sticky rice and/or lettuce cups.

Khao soi Luang Prabang (Tomato Noodle Soup)

Khao soi Luang Prabang

This Northern Laotian dish is a tomato and meat noodle soup. Khao soi Luang Prabang is made of flat rice noodles, minced pork, fermented soy beans and a thick tomato-based broth. Only light seasoning is used to balance out the flavors of the rich, flavorsome soup broth.

Generally Khao soi Luang Prabang is eaten for breakfast, but it can be eaten throughout the day. This dish is sometimes referred to as “spaghetti pho” because it looks like bolognese served on noodles.

Kaipen (Dried River Weed)

Kaipen

Kaipen is made of dried river weed, lightly salted and topped with sesame seeds. The river weeds are dried in the sun, pressed into thin sheets, seasoned and flash fried to make them extra crispy. 

Kaipen is rich in vitamins and minerals and is similar to Japanese nori. It can be eaten as a snack or as a side dish.

Khao Poon

Khao Poon
Photo Credit: Isan1985

Khao Poon is a traditional Laotian coconut curry soup with vermicelli noodles. The soup consists of chicken and chicken broth, vermicelli rice noodles, coconut milk and red curry paste which gives the soup a bright reddish orange color. It also contains several aromatic herbs including lemongrass, lime leaves and galanga. Once cooked, the soup is served with numerous toppings and condiments.

Kua Pak Bong (Water Spinach Stir Fry)

Kua Pak Bong

Water spinach is a leafy green vegetable grown in Laos, it’s fried with pork belly or chicken, along with oyster sauce, fermented soy beans and chilies to make kua pak bong.

Kua pak bong is a popular side dish, similar to Chinese crispy seaweed. It is served in many restaurants as a side, as well as at street food markets.

Mok Pa (Steamed Fish)

Mok Pa

Mok pa is made by wrapping fish up into parcels wrapped in banana leaves and tied with bamboo string, steamed until cooked through and served with sticky rice.

The steaming process makes the diced white fish tender and soft in texture. Mok pa is usually seasoned with lemongrass, chillies and fish sauce making the dish citrusy and flavorful.

Pho (Noodle Soup)

Phor

Similar to Vietnamese Pho, Lao pho is a popular noodle soup dish whose ingredients vary depending on whether you’re in the North or South of Laos, but will generally include beef broth, green onions, rice noodles and a range of herbs and spices.

This is commonly served as a breakfast food, but can be eaten at any time of the day. Pho can be found across Laos, everywhere from restaurants to street vendors.

Khao Jee (Baguette)

Khao Jee

Khao Jee is a popular street food in Lao, made by stuffing a baguette with lettuce, sliced tomatoes, onions, moo yor (pork meat), ham and topped with a pâté or chili sauce.

This is a popular breakfast meal, enjoyed with a cup of coffee. Khao jee is similar to Vietnamese banh mi, both dishes were introduced by the French in the 19th Century.

Sai Kok (Lao Sausages)

Sai Kok

Sai Kok are made from pork mixed with a variety of spices, along with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, chillies, onion and garlic.

These sausages are usually grilled until the skin is crispy, and are served with sticky rice. Similar sausages are popular in a number of different Asian cuisines, such as lap cheong in China.

Kai Yang (Grilled Chicken)

Kai Yang

Kai Yang is spiced, grilled chicken which is similar in flavor to Chinese spare ribs. Usually made by cutting open a whole chicken and pounding it until it’s flat, marinating it in spices and grilling it over a low heat until cooked through. The grilled chicken is then served with dipping sauce, sticky rice and raw vegetables. 

Originally this dish was from the Laos people of Laos and Isaan, Northeastern Thailand, kai yang is a street market staple. It can be bought as just the chicken legs or the whole chicken cut in half.

Tam Muk Muang (Mango Salad)

Tam Muk Muang

This salad is made with unripe yellow mangoes which are still crunchy and sour. Other traditional ingredients of tam muk muang include tomatoes, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce and cashew nuts. 

Tam muk muang is a popular side dish for laab, along with sticky rice. The word ‘tam’ means smash or mix in Laos because this salad is prepared with a mortar and pestle.

Ants Egg Soup

Ant Egg Soup

Ant egg soup is a traditional North-Eastern Thai and Laotian delicacy prepared using ant eggs combined with snakehead fish, garlic, galangal, lemon grass, tamarind bean, lime juice, basil leaves, tomatoes and fish stock. The ant eggs used consist of both the eggs and pupae of weaver ants (commonly called red ants in Thailand).

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