The town of Luang Prabang, Laos, is known for being relaxed and serene, but it’s also home to many traditional Lao dishes. When visiting the ancient capital of the “Land of a Million Elephants,” don’t miss the opportunity to savor the following dishes, which showcase the best of Lao cuisine.
Larb: Considered the national dish of Laos, larb is a meat-based salad usually made from minced beef, chicken or fish, which is then mixed with shallots, herbs, lime leaves, chili sauce, and fish sauce. The spiciness of the chili sauce is balanced with the tartness of the lime juice and the umami flavor of fish sauce to create the unique flavors of this hearty salad, often served with sticky rice.
Or Lam: Usually beef or pork, stewed with herbs and vegetables. The meat is cut into chunks to which ginkgo, tapioca, tubers, cassava root, shallots, green onion, lime leaves, chili peppers, and other spices including salt, monosodium glutamate, and ginger powder, are added. The mixture is then stewed in an earthenware pot over a charcoal stove and eaten with sticky rice.
Kaipen (Mekong River Moss): A traditional, vitamin-rich snack found in Luang Prabang that’s made from algae harvested from the Mekong River on hot summer days. The algae is washed and dried, then pressed into thin sheets with shrimp, galangal, garlic, and tomatoes added. Pieces of Mekong River moss are then coated with sesame seeds and quickly fried on both sides for a crispy texture. This dish is popular with visitors as an appetizer and is usually eaten with beer.
Tam Mak Hoong: A spicy and tart salad made from green papaya, tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, fish sauce, lime juice, and chili peppers. The crunchiness of the shredded papaya combined with the bold flavors of the sour and spicy dressing makes this refreshing dish a must-try when visiting Luang Prabang.
Mok Pa is a typical Lao dish made from fish and spices. The fish is de-boned, chopped and mixed with herbs, chili, garlic, fish sauce and lime juice. The mixture is then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. The salty, sweet and sour flavors of the fish combined with the heat from chili, the aroma of the herbs and the unique notes of fish sauce all blend together for a delicious culinary experience.
Khao Piak Sen: This rice noodle soup features a broth made from pork bones, onions, garlic, ginger, fish sauce and other spices. Soft, chewy noodles are topped with pork, shrimp, chicken or beef as well as fresh herbs and vegetables such as lettuce and coriander for a superb bowl of comfort food that’s both simple and tasty.
Sai Oua (Sausage): This Lao sausage originates in Northern Laos, and is made from coarsely chopped pork mixed with garlic, chili, shallots, lime leaves, passion fruit leaves, coriander root, cashew powder and fish sauce. The mixture is then rolled into long sausages and grilled over charcoal until golden brown. Sai Oua is often served with rice or bread and fresh vegetables and herbs.
Ping Kai (Grilled chicken): Chicken marinated with spices and sauces is grilled over charcoal until golden brown. Meaty chicken flavored with garlic, shallots, chili, lime leaves and fish sauce makes for a delightfully satisfying meal.
Sindad: A two-in-one meal, combining BBQ and hot pot. Sindad is made in a specially-designed cooking pot, with the middle serving as a barbecue grill surrounded by a hot pot, all over a charcoal stove. Ingredients including meat (mainly pork), vegetables, noodles and mushrooms are served with lime, garlic, chili, hot sauce and salt. Sindad is a traditional, communal Lao meal that’s the best of both worlds.