There are many things I love about South East Asia, but top of the list has to be the food.
I was so excited to go back to South East Asia and discover the food that Laos has to offer. I’d read that Laos doesn’t have the broad variety of food that’s found in Thailand and Vietnam, but I found that what we did eat appeared to be heavily influenced by these two cuisines, along with French.
As usual, every day was planned around meals, and discussions about where to eat for dinner began at breakfast.
Some of the food highlights include laap which is very similar to Thai larb, a spicy salad made of minced pork, beef or chicken. This is always a filling meal and there’s always some nervousness about just how spicy it will be. The other dish which played on Thai food was tam maak hung, the local version of som tam or papaya salad. This is possibly my favourite dish in Thailand, but in Laos it seemed that the small shrimps were generally not included. This could have just been at the places I ate at, but I didn’t mind not having these – sometimes the fishy flavour can be a little overpowering.
Noodles were on the menu in many places, and one night for dinner we ate a dish that tasted very much like pad thai at a small roadside restaurant. We also shared a bowl of noodle soup very similar to Vietnamese pho, but not quite as rich in flavour.
We couldn’t move anywhere without seeing little makeshift vendors selling fresh baguettes for a little over $1. We usually chose chicken and salad and found just one was enough for the both of us at lunchtime.
At the night markets, small grills were set up cooking a range of skewers. The pork skewer I had at the Luang Prabang food night market was delicious. In the small alley that houses this food market (open from 5pm each night), you can buy a plate for 10,000 kip (roughly $1.20) and fill it to overflowing with vegetables, salads, spring rolls and fried meats. Bargain.
Luang Prabang sausage was another favourite. These sausages were often seen drying alongside the street on small carts. The sausage is full of flavour but not at all oily like other sausages. Very more-ish.
Finally, what’s South East Asia without fruit shakes? Like baguettes, fruit shake stalls were everywhere. Offering a variety of flavours from mango to coconut to pineapple to avocado, they were a great place to stop for a refreshing break. My favourite place was House of Fruit Shake on Rue Samsenthai where I had the best coconut shake I’ve ever tasted.
The new flavour for us was Oreo shakes which we saw everywhere, particularly in Luang Prabang. And yes, they taste as good as they sound.
What are your favourite foods in South East Asia?