Lao Food: I Lao You!
Last week I returned from a wonderful trip to Laos with James. We flew from Jakarta and Hong Kong respectively and met in Kuala Lumpur to catch the flight to Vientiane on the following day. That gave us enough time to wander around the Malaysian capital to see the highlights of the city. On the other hand, Laos itself turned out to be a very beautiful and interesting country and we had a really good time traveling around. Laid-back Vientiane, spectacular scenery of Lao mountainous regions, quiet Luang Prabang and the friendly local people are some of the most incredible experiences we had in the PDR. However since I will be going to Southern China and Sri Lanka next week, you need to be a little more patient for my stories and photographs from my trip to Laos and Malaysia. I am still working on them though, but for now, I’m going to share some photographs of one of the best things in Laos: the food!
During our stay in Laos for five nights, we always tried the local food and skipped all the more familiar ones (except one chicken baguette that I had for breakfast in Vientiane). After traveling to almost every country in Southeast Asia I have to say that Lao foods are my favorite, really. I couldn’t remember the last time I fell in love with local foods as I did with the Lao delicacies. What I like from them is the fact that you can always find vegetables, whether cooked together with all other ingredients or simply served separately. Other than being healthy, obviously, all of the vegetables brought a very refreshing and pungent flavor to all the dishes.
I remember during our excruciating yet unforgettable 11-hour minivan ride from Vientiane to Luang Prabang, we stopped to have lunch at an unconvincing small restaurant on the roadside. We both had noodle soup and I need to tell you that was probably one of the best noodle soups I’ve ever had in my life. The stock was light actually, but the addition of coriander and other leaves in the bowl makes it worth finishing until the very last drop.
There were four other restaurants where we had wonderful meals of Lao foods: Tamarind, Tamnak Lao and Tum Tum Cheng – all in Luang Prabang – and Kualao in Vientiane. But if you ask me which one that I would recommend, I would definitely choose Tamarind for their beautiful presentation of every dish and drink. Below are a few of the local dishes that we had in Laos.
Apart from the absolutely delicious food, local Lao drinks are also worth trying. We had our favorite though, the addictive watermelon chilli granita. Yes, with real chilli in it. Those who are not fond of chilli might have to think it over again before trying this drink because as benign the chilli might taste at first, it got rather strong and left a slightly burning sensation aftertaste in your throat. However, we came back to Tamarind the next day to have another watermelon chilli granitas and still loved it.
For alcoholic drinks, you might want to try Lao Lao, a local rice whiskey, which turns out less fierce than I previously thought. Also make sure not to miss Beerlao, the most famous local beer brand which is ubiquitous throughout the country. Even though it says it contains only 5% of alcohol, but from what I felt after having a large bottle of Beerlao was similar to what happened after one liter of Rochefort Beer in Brussels – it made me just a little bit tipsy.