Lao cuisine isn’t as well-known as those of neighboring Thailand and Vietnam and though it does share some tiny similarities, it’s a very distinct way of cooking and mixing flavors that I found totally refreshing.
The freshness of the ingredients is very important to Laotians who prepare everything from scratch. They eat a great deal of vegetables and herbs which appear in almost every meal, with a preference for bitter and herbal flavors, and almost everything in Laos is eaten with sticky rice which they crush into a ball with their fingers and use like a sponge to soak up sauces.
Grilled or steamed meat or fish round out the meal, with the addition of spices, fish sauce and chilli. The Lao diet is almost completely lacking in processed foods which result in wonderfully fresh flavors and dishes that are low in fat.
The only ‘non-fresh’ ingredients you’re likely to find at any market are the snacks and sweets Laotians are so fond of. They include fried buffalo skin, banana chips, fried river weeds (only in Luang Prabang), all kinds of jerky, fried little coconut flour donuts, etc.
Just like in any Southeast Asian country, street food stalls are everywhere in Luang Prabang serving delicious noodle soups, spring rolls, grilled meat, etc. for merely nothing and a stop at the food alley from the night market (seen above) is a must. Backpackers and tourists are also filling up the outdoor tables near the National Museum where a myriad of fruit stands sell fresh juices, smoothies, and sandwiches to the expat crowd.
Besides streets stalls, Luang Prabang as an equally impressive number of excellent restaurants. I ate a lot of my breakfasts at my hotel, The Apsara, which has a fantastic restaurant mixing Laotian and French cuisine. Being an old French colony, the baguette is a staple at breakfast time and most restaurants and hotels will serve it toasted with butter and locally made jams.