Lao Specialities

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Packed with herbs, fresh vegetables and chillies, Laotian food is colourful and full of flavour. Don’t leave the country without getting a taste of these Laotian dishes.

Bamboo shoot soup

This soup is made with bamboo shoots, yanang leaves, fermented fish sauce and mushrooms.

Photo: Laos Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism

Jaew bong

Also known as Luang Prabang chilli sauce, this popular sweet and spicy chilli dip is made with dried chilli peppers, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, shallots, galangal, coriander leaves and dried water buffalo skin. It is usually served with raw or steamed vegetables, sticky rice or kaipen.

Photo: Laos Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism

Kaipen

This traditional, crispy Lao snack from Luang Prabang is made from river weed or algae harvested from the Mekong and other rivers in northern Laos. The river weeds are compressed, peppered with sesame seeds and sun dried into paper-thin sheets that resemble the Japanese nori (seaweed). They are then flash fried and usually served with jaew bong.

Photo: wakx uy/Wikimedia Commons

Khao jee

Similar to the Vietnamese banh mi, this Lao-style sandwich is made with crusty baguette filled with carrot, cilantro, tomatoes, onions, cheese, pate, ham, lettuce and chilli sauce.

Photo: HungryHuy/Wikimedia Commons

Khao piak sen

Commonly served for breakfast, this traditional Lao noodle soup is made by simmering chicken broth with galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, garlic and fish sauce. It is served with chewy noodles made from rice flour and tapioca starch, shredded chicken, coriander, cabbage, spring onions, fried garlic and lime wedges.

Photo: Marie Martin/Shutterstock

Khao poon

Also known as Lao laksa, this traditional spicy rice vermicelli soup is made with bamboo shoots, lemongrass, galangal, red curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce and garlic. The soup is served with rice vermicelli, fish, chicken or pork, and topped with vegetables like cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, coriander, spring onions, mint leaves and long beans.

Photo: Laos Guide 999

Khao poon nam jeow

This rice vermicelli clear soup is cooked with a variety of pork parts including pork bones, belly and innards, and served with rice vermicelli, pork liver, pork blood, pork intestine, bean sprouts and spring onions.

Photo: Go Laos Tours

Khao poon nam sin

This hearty, dark soup features thin rice noodles, tender beef chunks and tendon, and bamboo shoots, topped with coriander leaves.

Photo: Laos Tourist

Khao soi

Some have called this broad rice noodle soup “spaghetti pho” because it has a tomato meat sauce that’s similar to a bolognese sauce. The noodles come in a clear broth and are topped with the red tomato meat sauce, tomatoes, chilli and fermented soy bean paste, and served with basil, mint, long beans, coriander, lettuce and lime wedges.

Photo: Cindy Fan

Lao sausage

These spicy sausages are made with coarsely chopped pork seasoned with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, cilantro, chillies, garlic, salt and fish sauce. They are often eaten with sticky rice and vegetables.

Photo: Laos Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism

Larb

Widely regarded as Laos’ national dish, this meat-based salad is made with minced pork, chicken, beef, duck or fish that is flavoured with herbs and spices, lime juice, fish sauce, chilli and ground rice. Larb is usually eaten with sticky rice and raw vegetables.

Photo: Laos Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism

Or Lam

This mildly spicy and thick stew consists of beans, eggplant, lemongrass, basil, chillies, wood ear mushrooms, cilantro and green onions, accompanied by meat such as dried buffalo, beef, pork or chicken.

Photo: Laos Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism

Sien savanh

Similar to beef jerky, this Lao version is made with beef that’s marinated in a mixture of garlic, fish sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, sugar, salt and black pepper.

Photo: Laos Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism

Som moo

These sour pork sausages, which can be eaten raw or grilled, are made from chopped, fermented pork rump and skin, and wrapped in star gooseberry leaves, guava leaves, fig leaves or banana leaves.

Photo: Asia Hero Travel

Tam mak hoong

Similar to Thailand’s som tam, this popular sweet, salty, sour and spicy papaya salad is made with unripened papaya mixed with tomatoes, eggplants, long beans, peanuts, shrimp paste and chilli, tossed with fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and garlic.

Photo: Laos Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism