An array of sauces and stews to complement the all-important Lao sticky rice.user rating
The Lao ethnic group extends from the people of Laos to those in Isan in Northeast Thailand and the cuisine of both groups is almost identical. A Lao meal typically includes a soup, a grilled food with a sauce, a stew or mixed dish and an abundance of undressed fresh raw greens, vegetables and herbs served on the side. Sticky rice is the single most important Lao food. Laotians tend to eat their meals at room temperature using their hands, especially to handle the sticky rice.
Lao cuisine is different from the food of neighboring countries. For one thing, it is never really sweet or even “sweet and sour” but some dishes are bitter. The Lao people use a lot of mint, dill and galangal, herbs that are not found in other Southeast Asian cuisines. Galangal, used in most dishes, looks like its cousin ginger but the whole fresh root is very hard and has a different flavor. Laap, a spicy blend of marinated meat and/or fish that can be raw (like ceviche) with greens and herbs, is considered to be the national dish. Tam mak houng, a spicy green papaya salad and tom mak ha, stuffed bitter melon soup, are also authentic Lao dishes. Travelers in Laos will notice a French persuasion to the cuisine in the capital city of Vientiane and can even find baguettes sold in street markets.—Jennifer Capalbo