Laotian cuisine is herbaceous, vegetable-heavy, and lighter on sweet flavors than Thai food. Fresh bamboo shoots, for example, are the main ingredient in many Laotian dishes. But what makes Lao food so unique? Read on to find out.
Laotian food is herbaceous and vegetable-heavy
Like Thai cuisine, Laotian cooking is herbaceous and vegetable-heavy, with chilies and fermented fish playing a significant role. In addition to vegetables, Laos dishes feature pork meat, beef, chicken, and poultry, as well as plenty of fresh herbs and spices. Mutton, while not a popular meat choice in Laos, is only eaten by a tiny minority.
Laotian larb (pronounced la-bah) is considered the national dish. This dish combines thinly sliced meat with fish sauce, lime juice, and herbs to give it a distinctive flavor. It is sometimes eaten raw, but it is best eaten cooked.
Sai oua sausage, a Laos traditional delicacy, is a delicious pork sausage. It’s made from pork, filled with herbs, chili, and spices, and served with sticky rice. While not as spicy as Thai sausage, it goes well with a bowl of spicy rice. Another Laotian favorite is sai our krouaille, a spicy black buffalo sausage best served with sticky rice.
Khao poon, the country’s national soup, is another favorite. Laos is obsessed with soup, and this dish is no exception. Khao poon is a particular type of noodle that resembles sticky spaghetti, and it’s served with a spicy broth. The broth is made from pork, fish, chicken, or vegetables and is usually spiced with fresh herbs and spices. The fragrant broth is poured over the noodles and topped with chopped fresh herbs.
Laotian food is similar to Thai cuisine but differs from Thailand’s because it doesn’t go through the marinating process. It’s also more vegetable-heavy, with more aromatics and vegetables. It was also influenced by the French colonized Laos during the French period.
Jaew, or dipping sauce, is a staple of Lao food. This spicy condiment is a favorite of locals and is used in many of the country’s traditional dishes. In particular, the jaew bong, a popular herb in Luang Prabang, is made of buffalo fat and red chili sauce. This sauce is often served with grilled meat, sticky rice, or steamed fish.
Beerlao, a local beer produced by the Lao Brewing Company in Vientiane, is the national beer of Laos. It is sold throughout Laos and is often the main beverage at communal meals and functions. While it’s not as widely distributed as Tiger Beer or Chang Beer in Thailand, it’s still regarded as one of the best commercial beers in Southeast Asia. It comes in full and dark brews and is available in most bars and restaurants in Vientiane.
It is lighter on sweet flavors than Thai food.
The most notable difference between Laotian and Thai food is fresh herbs and a lighter touch on the sweet flavors. Laotian food is often less lovely than Thai cuisine and is often a better choice for those who don’t like the heavy taste of Thai food. In addition to being lighter in flavor, Laotian food is much easier to digest than Thai food.
Laotian food has less sugar than Thai cuisine, and dishes are generally more bitter than sweet. In addition to using less sugar, Lao plates often feature more seafood and a rich coconut curry base. Another staple in Lao cuisine is the water buffalo, which is used in hundreds of dishes.
Thai and Laotian food share many common ingredients. However, Laotian dishes use more fresh vegetables and cook them for a shorter period. In contrast, Thai food may be boiled for a long time, destroying many of its nutrients.
Sticky rice is another staple of Laotian cooking, but it’s not quite as sweet as Thai food. It’s served in bamboo baskets and is typically flattened with your fingers. It can also be eaten alongside other dishes, including curries. This means you’ll have to experiment with unfamiliar flavors before you get the hang of eating Lao food.
Khao piak sen is a classic Laotian dish, a meat broth soup with thick rice noodles. It has a similar texture to Vietnamese pho but is distinctly different. Laotian noodle soup is often spicier and contains more meat. It is a starter dish and is served with a spicy red curry.
It relies on fresh bamboo shoots.
The traditional Laotian cuisine is colorful and packed with herbs, chilies, and other fresh ingredients. Often focusing on fish, beef, and pork, Laotian dishes are rich in vegetables and rely on flavorings. Many Laotian dishes include grilled river fish and freshwater prawns. Some Laotian dishes also include sliced raw eggplant and banana flower.
Bamboo shoots, also called regular, are used in classic Laotian dishes for their flavor and aroma. They are also used to tenderize meats and produce solid flavors. Green papaya is also used in Lao words, and papaya salad is a staple.
The unique Laotian dish Laap is one of the staple foods. It’s made from freshwater green algae and tempered with sesame seeds. It is served in rolls with a special chilly paste. Watercress leaves add fiber to the dish and provide a fresh mouth feel.
Bamboo shoots are not toxic, but if not stored properly, they will go wrong. Some species can even smell like ammonia. When not eaten raw, they should be stored with the outer shell intact. The outer shell is a barrier against air, which can spoil the meat.
Bamboo shoots can contain a high amount of vitamins and minerals. The green shoots are a valuable source of food and income for farmers in rural Laos. Sustainable bamboo management and value chain development can help rural people improve their livelihoods and increase their food security. The Lao Farmer Network, a national farmer platform in Laos, is interested in leveraging the bitter bamboo group’s experiences.
Fresh bamboo shoots are another staple ingredient in Laotian dishes. Bamboo shoots and other fresh mushrooms are often added to the soup to create a unique flavor. In addition to bamboo shoots, Lao chefs usually steam fish in aluminum vessels specially made to hold water.
The staple Laotian food, sticky glutinous rice, is traditionally served in a bamboo basket. It is typically eaten with the hands and accompanied by salads and dips. It is often filled with curried meat or fish. The basket itself is known as a tip Khao.
Because of its French colonial heritage, Laotian cuisine makes a great breakfast or lunch dish. French bread with pate and fried eggs are typical, and croissants are also widely available in major cities. Another traditional dish is pah thawing ko, a deep-fried Chinese dough stick.
The fresh bamboo shoots used in Laotian cooking are often used in soups, stews, and desserts. These ingredients make the rice sticky. The Laotian people also love intense flavors. Their main dish, Khao niao, is steamed sticky rice. The word is made from glutinous rice, which is higher in sugar than ordinary rice. The rice is then cooked with fresh bamboo shoots to give it a sweet and salty taste.
Compared to Thai cuisine, Laotian food is more straightforward and less complex. It uses a variety of herbs and vegetables to add flavor to dishes and is typically served in family settings. Laotian food is rich in nutrients and is generally served with sticky rice.