The Aventurous Foodies – ‘True tastes of Laos’

‘True tastes of Laos’

Galangal, lemongrass, and garlic. These are the three base ingredients that all Laos cooking starts with. Unlike Thailand, which has several different cuisines depending on the region, Laos only has one cuisine. Using food from the forests, jungle, rivers, and local farms, Laos people are very proud of their food, passing along traditional recipes and cooking practices to each generation.

Lots of fresh herbs are used to infuse flavours that make your taste buds sing with joy. From the street foods sold in the morning and night markets, quaint cafes, and high end restaurants, you will find food that is similar and foods that at times can be weird and disturbing to our Western palates.

As you wander down the streets of the morning market, which begins at 4am, it doesn’t take you long to realize that you are one of few “farangs” (foreigners) exploring the back streets of Luang Prabang. This market is for the local people. Shop owners, mothers, noodle soup street vendors, restaurant owners, and people on their way to school and work, are purchasing their food for the day. This is the place to be if you want to experience the true taste of Laos. Women sit on low stools with their woven mats laid out before them covered in fresh, colourful produce. It is a flurry of activity…. portable scales measure out handfuls of this and bunches of that.

The juicy oranges and sweet bananas beckon to become our snacks for the day. The aroma of sticky rice, served at every meal and vessel for eating, fills the air alongside the many bubbling broths, the base for our favourite food….noodle soup.

The women laugh as we take pictures, probably wondering why someone would want a picture of barbecued meat on a stick or a dragon fruit. We are in food lover paradise wanting to try as much of it as we can. I mean who wouldn’t want to try a mini pancake filled with coconut custard being made fresh before your eyes?!

The array of fresh greens would make any “juicer” back home scream with delight! Mint, basil, watercress, spinach, lettuce, green beans…..all just waiting to be added to dishes like Spring rolls, Lap, Tamarind Soup, and Curry Coconut Chicken.

Items from the jungle, like bamboo, we have seen before, but dried jungle rat makes us take a second look and ask what they do with it…..”make soup” a smiling face filled with wrinkles tell us. Dried river weed that looks like seaweed, is sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. We are warned that the sun-dried sheets need to be fired before eating or you will get a sore tummy.

For the carnivores, tiny grill after tiny grill is covered in anything that can be barbecued, including water buffalo! Fish covered in herbs, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed makes the perfect package of mouthwatering goodness.

From the hill tribe woman who venture across the bridge every morning, to the farmer with a plot of land along the Mekong River, the food of the people is what makes Laos a foodie’s “must see” destination.