Lao food, like its Thai neighbour, is simple, fresh and flavoursome. Sticky rice rather than steamed rice is the main staple. Almost all of Lao dishes are cooked with fresh ingredients whether they are vegetables, chicken, duck, pork, fish and beef. Som tum, a spicy green papaya salad is a signature dish as is Larb, made with diced chicken, pork, fish or vegetables tossed with lime juice, garlic, powdered rice, green onions, mint leaves and chillies.
With a French colonial influence, delightful French pastries and croissants can be found on most street corners in addition to local favourites of barbecued pork, beef jerky (Sinh Savan) and meatballs. International cuisine is also popular and top gourmet restaurants without the price tag can be found in most major cities and tourist hot spots.
Beer Lao is the lager of choice. Whiskeys, vodkas and wines are also served in hotels and restaurants though air on the side of caution as the quality does vary. Strong black coffee is drunk with condensed milk as it is in Vietnam and Cambodia though often comes accompanied with warm water or a light tea. Fruit juices are easily available and taste good. Fresh fruit juices pulped in front of you are even better. International brand soft drinks, imported from Thailand are inexpensive and can be found everywhere.
Safe eating while travelling in Laos
Laos is still very much a developing country and therefore the food hygiene standards there are different to what we would expect in the West. Take extra care when eating meat and fish by making sure it has been cooked through thoroughly and is served piping hot. Given that the water is not safe to drink, you should not eat anything that could have been washed in it such as unpeeled fruits, uncooked vegetables and salad. Unpasteurised dairy products should also be avoided.