15 Must-Try Laos Food: Explore Authentic Flavors in Luang Prabang

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Laos food is one of the best-kept secrets of Southeast Asia. Laos, a country tucked between Thailand, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia offers a cuisine rich in flavors, herbs, and simple and fresh ingredients. 

While Vientiane is the capital of Laos, Luang Prabang is regarded as the country’s culinary capital.

Luang Prabang offers a great window into Laos food with widely available street food and restaurants.

After exploring Laotian cuisine and the the local food specialties,we share our guide to Laos food and the best Luang Prabang restaurants.

Get to know Laos food through these 15 authentic Laos dishes and restaurants to try them.

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What is Laos Food?

Rice Laos food by Authentic Food Quest
Rice is often on the menu in Laos

Lao cuisine is known for its abundant fresh vegetables and herbs along with savory and sometimes bitter flavors. 

The food revolves around one key ingredient – sticky rice or khao niew. It is the most common Laos food served with almost all meals and is deeply ingrained in the Lao identity. 

Laos is also known for its most famous dish – larb. This is a salad containing seafood or meat mixed with fish sauce, lime juice, and a variety of fresh herbs. 

While sampling the dishes around Laos, you’ll enjoy a vibrant street food scene with colorful traditional Laotian dishes. 

One of the most popular Laos street food is a dish called Nam Khao, which is a crispy rice salad. It’s served with lettuce leaves and an abundance of fresh herbs. 

This favorite street food is found at street stalls and markets throughout the country.

Top 15 Laotian Dishes You’ll Want to Try

When visiting a new destination, trying the local food specialties is non-negotiable. Eating local provides an immersive experience and connection to the local culture.

In Laos, get to know the local Laotian food culture through these 15 authentic dishes.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are curious about learning how to make Laotian food consider taking a cooking class. We took this cooking class in Luang Prabang and loved learning about each unique dishes! Choose any of these Laos food cooking classes that best fit your travel schedule.

1. Jaew – The Dipping Sauce for Every Laos Dish

Jaew Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
The incredibly flavorful jaew dipping sauce

Jaew is one of the main staples of Laotian food and refers to dipping sauces in Lao cuisine. They are used in each and every Laotian meal, and there are many different kinds. 

Jaew Mak Khua: Lao Cuisine to Fall in Love With

Jaew Mak Khua was our favorite and one of the most popular dipping sauces.

We discovered Jaew Mak Khua during our cooking class in Luang Prabang, where we learned how to make it from scratch using a mortar and pestle.

We loved it. And it was quite a contrast compared to Jaew Bong. Although the two sauces start with the same common ingredients, shallots and garlic, these tastes were worlds apart.

Grilled eggplants, green and red chilies, tomatoes, and herbs like coriander are pounded in a mortar and pestle to make Jaew Mak Khua.

The resulting jaew sauce is tasty, with a smooth texture and fragrant smell.  While you can eat Jaew Mak Khua with a spoon, it is traditionally eaten with the main staple food of Lao cuisine – sticky rice and other local Lao foods.

Jaew Bong: A Popular Luang Prabang Food

Jaew Bong Food in Luang Prabang Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Buffalo fat in the jaew bong from Dyen Sabai Restaurant

You will find primarily Jaew Bong in restaurants where this traditional food is also called Luang Prabang chili sauce.

It combines slices of buffalo fat mixed into a red chili sauce. The sauce has shallots, garlic, chilies, lime, fermented fish sauce, tamarind, palm sugar, and more.

Jaew Bong is served with many Laotian dishes like grilled meat, steamed fish, grilled meat, glutinous rice, and vegetables.

This sauce is spicy with a combination of sweet and strong savory flavors. Although we had jaew bong several times, we never acquired a taste for it. We found the buffalo fat in the sauce to be chewy, rubbery, and lacking in taste.

Best Restaurant in Luang Prabang to Savor Jaew

Dyen Sabai Platter Best Restaurant In Luang Prabang Laos food by Authentic Food Quest
Platter of local Laos food at Dyen Sabai Restaurant

One wonderful restaurant to taste the two different kinds of jaew sauces is Dyen Sabai, located across the Nam Khan River.

Sitting above the river, you can enjoy beautiful city and water views. It is a romantic and relaxing restaurant to enjoy a variety of traditional  Laos dishes. 

Get the appetizer platter which has local specialties including Jaew Bong and Jaew Mak Khua.

Dyen Sabai Restaurant

Address: Ban Phan Louang, Luang Prabang 

Hours: Open everyday, 10:00 am – 11:30 pm

Price: ₭120,000 Lao Kip per platter for two people (approx $6.97 USD). The platter includes; Jaew Bong, Jaew Mak Khua, Mekong Seaweed, Sai Oua, and dry pork with sesame.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: You will need to cross the river using one of the few pedestrian bamboo bridges to access this charming Luang Prabang restaurant. Note that each pedestrian will have to pay a small fee of ₭10,000 Lao Kip ($0.58 USD) to cross. 

2. Sticky Rice or Khao Chi or Khao Jee – The Main Staple of Laos Food

Sticky Rice With Laos Sausage for Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Laos Sticky rice with sai oua and grilled chicken

I love sticky rice, and as a result, Laos loves me. This glutinous rice is the main staple in Laos and is eaten at every meal. 

One unique way you’ll find sticky rice in Laos is on skewers barbecuing over a grill on street side corners.

The skewers of rice are dipped into a mixture of eggs, herbs, and in some cases, fermented fish sauce and then grilled.

These skewers are slightly more glutinous than the typical sticky rice served as a side to Laos meals. They are a great snack, especially when they are freshly grilled. 

At local restaurants, the rice is typically served in a traditional bamboo basket. These seemingly small baskets contain large quantities of rice.

As the portions are gigantic, order one serving for two people. In Laos, whether you are eating grilled meat, fish dishes, salads, or even omelets, there is always sticky rice for you to enjoy.

Best Place to Eat Sticky Rice in Luang Prabang

Sticky Rice Skewers for Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Grilled sticky rice on skewers

Sticky rice is available on every restaurant menu for about ₭5000 Lao Kip (approx $0.60 USD) and it is enough for two adults.

For the sticky rice on skewers, you will find them mostly barbecued in the mornings at street corners. Look for the popular stalls with the freshest-looking offerings. 

We like the sticky rice skewers from the young lady at the corner of KitSalat and Sisavangvong Road, across from the tourist office.

Young Lady Stall and Morning Market 

Address – Morning Market: Sisavangvong Road and road near Wat Mai Monastery

Address- Lady with Sticky Rice Skewers: Across the tourist office on KitSalat and Sisavangvong Road

Hours: Open every day, 7:00 am to 9:00 am

Price: Between ₭2,000 to ₭4,000 Lao Kip per skewer, depending on how well you can negotiate

3. Laos Khao Soi – Luang Prabang’s Official Noodle Dish

Khao Soi Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Laos Khao Soi, a must-eat Laos food

Laos Khao Soi is Luang Prabang’s official noodle soup and a Laos food we couldn’t wait to try.

One of our favorite northern Thai dishes is Khao Soi, a rich and spicy coconut milk-based curry served with chicken and two types of noodles.

Unlike the creamy coconut-based Khao Soi in Chiang Mai, the Laos version was visually different.

In a bowl of clear pork broth with wide-cut rice noodles was a mound of tomatoes, chilies, fermented soybean, and ground pork. Fresh, aromatic herbs topped the bowl. 

To eat Khao Soi, squeeze the lime into the noodle soup, mix the fresh herbs, and add in some watercress and vegetables from the basket of greens.

We enjoyed the fresh flavors of the Laos Khao Soi. The Lao noodle soup is quite filling and not as spicy as the Chiang Mai Khao Soi – making it an enjoyable breakfast dish.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: If you like noodle dishes, you can easily make Khao Soi at home. See our ​​Easy Khao Soi Recipe: How To Make The Best Chiang Mai Noodles

Best Restaurant in Luang Prabang for Khao Soi – Khao Soi Noodle Shop

KhaoSoi Noodle Shop for Best Restaurant In Luang Prabang Foods in laos by Authentic Food Quest
Enjoying Laos Khao Soi with mounds of greens at Khao Soi Noodle Shop

In Luang Prabang, we ate Khao Soi for breakfast at a place called Khao Soi Noodle Shop. With only one item on the menu, we were first served two steaming bowls of noodles and  huge basket of fresh vegetables and herbs.

The Khao Soi Noodle Shop is located in the old quarter across from Pho Wat Sene. You will not miss the group of ladies cooking in enamel pots on the exterior. 

The eatery is popular and sells out early. While their hours are listed from 7:30 am to 12:00 noon, we recommend getting there early to ensure you taste this remarkable Laos food.

Khao Soi Noodle Shop

Address: Sakkaline Road, Luang Prabang

Hours: Open every day from 7:30 am until 12:00 pm or until they run out 

Price: ₭25,000 Lao Kip per bowl (approx $1.46 USD)

4.  Laos Larb: The National Dish of Laos

Laos Larb Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Laos Larb (laap pa) made with tasty local fish

Laos Larb is a signature dish often referred to as the Laos national dish, though it does not have the official designation.

There are several spellings for larb which include laap, lahp, and several other phonetic variations. 

Laos larb is essentially a salad made with thinly sliced meat or seafood mixed with lime juice, fish sauce, fresh chilies, coriander, and a variety of other herbs. 

Everything is mixed to form a delicious spicy salad. The meat might be fish, chicken, pork, beef, buffalo, or duck. 

In some parts of the country, the local Laos diet calls for fish eaten raw to make fish larb. Be sure to have yours cooked.

Laos larb is usually served with vegetables including eggplants, chilies, and greens. It is also eaten with sticky rice and seasoned with sticky rice powder. 

Larb was one of our favorite salads that we enjoyed several times. The fish larb or Laap Pa, was consistently recommended for being the freshest and made with fish from the nearby waters.

We always tried the fish larb cooked and enjoyed its tasty flavors. Depending on where you are, the level of spice varies.

Best Luang Prabang Restaurant to Have Laos Larb

View From Xien Thong Phonsavanh Best Restaurant In Luang Prabang Laotian food by Authentic Food Quest
Views of the Mekong River from Xien Thong Phonsavanh Restaurant

One of our favorite Luang Prabang restaurants for local specialties was Xien Thong Phonsavanh restaurant. This laid-back restaurant overlooking the Mekong River is the perfect place to explore the foods in Laos.

What we particularly appreciated was the chef, Mr. Pen, who introduced himself. Even though he doesn’t speak much English and we don’t speak the Laos language, we were still able to communicate around the traditional Laos dishes.

He guided us to try several unique and fresh Lao dishes including fish larb.

Xien Thong Phonsavanh Restaurant

Address: Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos

Hours: Open every day, 11:00 am to 11:00 pm

Price for Laos Fish Larb – Laap Pa: ₭40,000 Lao Kip (approx $2.32 USD)

RELATED: 15 of the Best Authentic Chiang Mai Food and Where to Eat It

5.  Mekong Seaweed from Luang Prabang – Khai Pan

Mekong Seaweed Food in Luang Laos dishes Prabang by Authentic Food Quest
Mekong Seaweed, a snack before dinner

This neon green-colored river weed is sure to catch your attention as much as it caught ours. 

Mekong seaweed is a local specialty that is harvested from the river where the water is shallow, rocky, and oxygen-rich. 

It is then pounded, flattened, and coated with tamarind juice, sesame seeds, garlic, and tomatoes. After it has dried, it is cut up into squares and fried for just a few seconds in hot oil.

Originating from Luang Prabang City, you’ll find Khai Pan all around town. We first had it as an appetizer, which is how it is typically eaten. 

Mekong seaweed is served warm and with a side of jaew dipping sauce or Luang Prabang chili paste. Although we found it a little greasy, we enjoyed the salty and spicy flavors.

While the color will intrigue you, the taste and experience of this local Laos food make it worth seeking out.

Best Restaurant in Luang Prabang for Mekong Seaweed

Mekong Seaweed at Morning Market Food in Luang Prabang Laos street food by Authentic Food Quest
Packages of Mekong Seaweed for sale at the market

At the Morning Market, you’ll find plenty of vendors selling different-sized packages of Mekong seaweed. A small package starts at about ₭10,000 Lao Kip (approx $1.17 USD).

You can also find Mekong seaweed at many restaurants served as an appetizer. 

One of our favorite Luang Prabang restaurants for khai pan and other food in Laos is Xien Thong Phonsavanh restaurant. 

Xien Thong Phonsavanh Restaurant

Address: Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang, Laos

Hours: Open every day, 11:00 am to 11:00 pm

Price for Mekong Seawood: ₭30,000 Lao Kip (approx $1.74 USD)

6. Sai Oua: Flavorful Lao Sausage

Sai Oua Krouaille Laos Buffalo Sausage Foods in laos Luang Prabang Food by Authentic Food Quest
Sai oua krouaille or black spicy grilled buffalo sausages

This flavorful Lao sausage is very similar to the famous sai oua sausage from northern Thailand. It is a grilled pork sausage packed with herbs and spices. 

Lemongrass, galangal, red chilis, dill, and cilantro make for some of the main ingredients in the sai oua sausage.

In Laos, sai oua is typically served with sticky rice. This pork sausage is incredibly flavorful and not as spicy as the Thai sausage version. It is perfect to eat as a snack or a starter to a meal.

In Luang Prabang, you can also find the local Lao sausage, sai oua krouaille, a black spicy grilled buffalo sausage. 

While we didn’t get the chance to try this buffalo sausage, it is definitely worth seeking out.

Best Place to Eat Sai Oua, Laos Sausage in Luang Prabang

Night Market for Food in Luang Prabang Laos food by Authentic Food Quest
Some of the appetizing Laos delights at the Night Market

Fresh on the grill, you will find Laos sai oua and sai oua krouaille sausages at the street food stalls at the night market.

Night Market

Address: Sisavangvong Road and Kitsalat Road

Hours: Open daily, 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Price: About ₭20,000 Lao Kip for a Sai Oua (approx $1.16 USD) and ₭30,000 Lao Kip for a Sai Oua Krouaille (approx $1.74 USD)

You can also find sai oua served at restaurants as an appetizer. Dyen Sabai Restaurant offers it as part of their platter combo as described in paragraph # 1 about jaew.

7. Popular Laotian BBQ

Grilled Fish for Laos Food Authentic Food Quest
Grilled fish, a popular staple of Laotian barbecue

Laotian barbecue is part of the Laos food culture and is widely popular in the country. On any given evening, you’ll will find all sorts of meats and fish grilling on the streets.

Various cuts of chicken, mounds of pork sausages, buffalo sausages, grilled frogs, whole river fish, and even innards can all be found on Laotian grills.

Prices differ depending on the size of the grilled pieces and also the type of meat or fish you order. Simply choose the piece you want, place your order, and eat on the spot. 

Alternatively, you can have your meat prepared immediately, grilled, and wrapped in banana leaves to take on the go.

Best Places to Eat Laotian BBQ in Luang Prabang

Laotian BBQ Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Grilled chicken skewers at the market

You will find grilled meat and fish near the morning and night markets. While we can’t speak to the quality, you will find a wide variety of meats and fish to choose from.

There are many vendors so look for the freshest stall where there is a good turnover. 

We enjoyed some grilled chicken and grilled sai oua while at the night market and had a pleasant dinner.

Night Market Or Morning Market

Address – Night Market: Sisavangvong Road and Kitsalat Road

Hours: Open every day; 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm

Address – Morning Market: Sisavangvong Road and road near Wat Mai Monastery

Hours: 7:00 am to 9:00 am

Price: ₭20,000 for Sai Oua ($1.16 USD), ₭30,000 –  ₭60,000 Lao Kip for grilled meats and fish, depending on the size you choose (approx $1.74 – $3.48 USD)

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Make your culinary travels worry-free! With the right travel insurance, you’ll enjoy a delicious experience. From medical emergencies, flight cancelations, car rental protection, or tour cancelations, a good travel insurance has got you covered. Check out our travel insurance review for food lovers to get started.

8. Mok Pa – Fish Steamed in Banana Leaf – One of the Best Local Laos Foods

Mok Pa Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Mok Pa – fish steamed in banana leaf

When you eat Laos food, Mok Pa, a favorite is part of the Laos local diet. Very simple to make, this Lao meal consists of only fish, vegetables, and herbs.

 It is not spicy and is quite fragrant from the use of dill, basil, spring onions, and more. 

This dish reminded us of Amok, the national dish of Cambodia. Similarly, both are fish dishes cooked in a banana leaf wrap. But that’s where the similarity ends. 

In Cambodia, the unique main ingredient used is kroueng, a curry paste with a distinct flavor. 

Whereas in the Lao version, the white fish is cooked simply with vegetables and herbs. 

We enjoyed this delectable steamed fish with fresh herbaceous flavors. Mok Pa is typically eaten with sticky rice. 

Dyen Sabai Restaurant – Best Place to Have Mok Pa

Dyen Sabai Best Restaurant In Luang Prabang Laotian food by AuthenticFood Quest
Views of the Nam Khan River from Dyen Sabai Restaurant

Mok Pa is one of the most popular Laos dishes and one that is worth seeking out. You’ll find this Laos dish at several restaurants in town. 

One of the best restaurants to enjoy Mok Pa is Dyen Sabai Restaurant. Not only is the food quite flavorful, but the views overlooking the Nam Khan River are also spectacular. 

Dyen Sabai Restaurant

Address: Ban Phan Louang, Luang Prabang 

Hours: Open every day, 10:00 am – 11:30 pm

Price: ₭68,000 Lao Kip for a serving of Mok Pa (approx $3.95 USD)

9. Laos Spicy Green Papaya Salad – Tam Mak Hoong or Thum Mak Hoong

Papaya Salad Food in Luang Prabang Laos dishes by Authentic Food Quest
Laos spicy green papaya salad

Green papaya salad is said to have been created by the Lao people and introduced to central Thailand by Lao immigrants. 

Variations of this Laos dish are found throughout Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, where it is most commonly known by its Thai name, som tam.

As one of our favorite Thai salads, we were eager to try the original version from Laos. At a popular roadside stall called Papaya Salad Restaurant, we watched with anticipation as the vendor prepared our salad with a traditional mortar and pestle.

At first glance, we could see a difference right away with the Laos papaya salad. The way the papaya is prepared is different than in Thailand. 

In Laos, the unripe papaya is shaved into wide, thin strips, rather than grated as in Thailand. 

The ingredients used include lime, garlic, dried shrimp, chilies, tomatoes, garlic, and Lao fermented fish sauce or padaek.

We were surprised by how spicy we found the salad. While it was very tasty, we appreciated having a large basket of sticky rice to dull some of the spice. 

The crunchy textures from the wide strips of papaya and the combination of the fresh ingredients make this green papaya salad quite enjoyable.

This is one of the ultimate staple Laos foods we recommend savoring the depth of flavors in this Laos spicy papaya green salad.

Best Restaurant to Eat Laos Spicy Green Papaya Salad in Luang Prabang

Papaya Salad Restaurant Luang Prabang Food by Authentic Food Quest
The exterior of the Papaya Salad Restaurant

When a restaurant is dedicated to making just one dish, you know they have mastered the art of perfecting it. 

For where to eat the best Laos green papaya salad, look no further than the street side stall called Papaya Salad Restaurant.

You’ll find this stall on Kounxoau Road across from Vat Nong Sikhounmuang. Look for the lady pounding on a mortar and pestle. 

The stall gets busy with locals, and you may need to wait for a table. Be patient, it is worth the wait.

Papaya Salad Restaurant

Address: 35 Kounxoau Rd, Luang Prabang

Hours: Open every day, 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

Price: ₭20,000 Lao Kip per plate of papaya salad (approx $1.16 USD)

10. Khao Piak Sen: Laos Noodle Soup

Khao Piak Laos Noodle Soup Laos street food by Authentic Food Quest
Khao Piak Sen or Laos noodle soup with a poached egg

Khao Piak Sen is a popular Laos rice noodle soup served for breakfast or lunch. It is made with chicken or pork and rice noodles. The noodles are made of rice and tapioca which makes their texture quite chewy. 

The soupy broth contains green onions, fried garlic and shallots, cilantro, cabbage, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. 

At a local restaurant, I had the “Special” rice noodle dish which came with an additional poached egg in the soup.

This is one of the best rice noodle dishes for comfort and flavor. it is relatively light and makes for a wonderfully tasty lunch. 

Best Restaurants to Eat Khao Piak Sen in Luang Prabang

Rosemary at Xieng Thong Noodle Soup Best Restaurant in Luang Prabang Laotian food by Authentic Food Quest
Rosemary enjoying her Laos noodle soup

This simple restaurant is located on Sakkaline Road at the quiet end of the Peninsula. It is the perfect Luang Prabang restaurant to stop for lunch before or after a visit to the must-see Wat XiengThong. 

It is best to go for lunch before 1:00 pm for the widest selection of rice noodle dishes.

Xieng Thong Noodle Soup

Address: Sakkaline Road behind Wat Xieng Thong

Hours: Open daily, 7:00 am to 2:00 pm

Price: ₭13,000 Lao Kip for Noodle Soup Pork (approx $0.75 USD) and ₭15,000 Lao Kip for Noodle Soup Pork with an egg ($0.87 USD)

11. Laos Sandwich: Khao Jee

Khao Jee Sandwich Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Tasty Laos khao jee sandwich

Laos inherited one of its greatest culinary delights from France – the French baguette. With that comes the delicious Khao Jee, a Laos sandwich made with pork and vegetables and a variety of fillings.

This sandwich is similar to the Banh Mi from Vietnam which we wrote about in our quest for the best Vietnamese Banh Mi in the country.

 In Cambodia, there is a similar sandwich called Num Pang, a popular Cambodian street food.

In Laos, the khao jee sandwich is a baguette filled with pork meat, pate, cucumber, cilantro, shredded carrots, and green mango, topped with pork floss.

 We recommend adding the dipping sauce, Luang Prabang chili sauce for an additional spicy bite..

This is a popular Laos street food, mostly eaten at breakfast and lunch. We found Khao Jee to be a tasty and filling sandwich. 

We enjoyed the crunchy baguette, though we found it slightly dry for our tastes.

Best Place to Eat the Best Laos Sandwich in Luang Prabang

KhaoJee Sandwich Vendor Luang Prabang Laos Street Food by Authentic Food Quest
Don’t miss this Khao Jee sandwich vendor

We had seen a particular street vendor selling the Khao Jee sandwich to crowds of locals each time we went Luang Prabang’s Old City. 

For lunch one day, we decided to explore the flavors of this famous Laos sandwich. We recommend going early, before 12:00 pm to get a sandwich before he closes.

Khao Jee Laos Sandwich Street Vendor

Address: On Visounnarath Road across the Laos Development Bank and next to Ms. Sao Coffee & Tea shop

Hours: Go before 12:00 pm

Price: ₭15,000 Lao Kip (approx $ 0.87 USD) for one sandwich.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Another location that was recommended to us by a local food lover was Nang Ae Restaurant at the corner of Kingkitsalat and Kingkitsarath Road.

12. Lao Omelet – Lao Food for Dill Lovers

Laos Omelet for Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Amazingly delicious Laos omelet with lots of dill

This simple and fluffy omelet immediately captured Rosemary’s attention. As an egg lover and specialist in scrambled eggs and omelets, she could not resist ordering the local and unexpected Lao omelet.

The Lao omelet is a large fluffy omelet folded over and stuffed with fresh herbs. Served with bread and a side of sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, it makes for a simple and satisfying meal.

What made this Lao food so memorable was the use of fresh dill, tomatoes, fresh coriander, and spring onions.

Rosemary thoroughly enjoyed the fresh flavors of this omelet; she swore to herself to start adding dill to her eggs. 

If you haven’t tried adding dill to your eggs, Rosemary highly recommends giving it a shot.

Best Restaurant to Eat a Delectable Laos Omelette in Luang Prabang

Garden at Big Tree Cafe and Gallery for Best Restaurant In Luang Prabang Laotian food by Authentic Food Quest
Gorgeous outdoor seating at Big Tree Cafe & Gallery

You’ll find the Big Tree Cafe & Gallery restaurant on the main street that runs along the Mekong River. This hidden gem has a beautiful garden area where you can enjoy your meal in tranquility.

Known for serving wholesome dishes with ingredients from local farms, you’ll enjoy both the food and the laid-back environment.

Big Tree Cafe & Gallery

Address: Ounkham Road, 46 Ban Vat Nong, Luang Prabang

Hours: Open Monday – Saturday; 9:00 am – 8:00 pm

Price: Lao Omelette ₭30,000 Lao Kip (approx $1.74 USD)

13. Luang Prabang Salad: A Popular Luang Prabang Dish

Luang Prabang Salad Foods in laos by Authentic Food Quest
Brightly colored Luang Prabang salad

As we were researching and discovering the local Laos cuisine, we were very surprised to stumble upon the Luang Prabang Salad. 

It was a hot afternoon and we were looking for a light and refreshing local Laos dish. As soon as we saw the Luang Prabang salad on the menu, I was sold. 

The description on the menu was pretty standard; the salad came with cucumber, lettuce, watercress, tomato, mint, coriander, and a boiled egg. 

Accompanying the salad was a special Luang Prabang special salad dressing.

This salad looked simple though elegantly presented –  tomatoes and slices of boiled eggs sitting piled high on a bed of fresh lettuce, watercress, and herbs. 

The salad dressing was lightly creamy with sweet and sour flavors from fish sauce, lime, and other local ingredients. 

This was one of the best and freshest salads I had eaten in a long time. While the salad seemed basic, it is packed with bright colors and truly incredible flavors. 

Known as Yum Salat, this French-Lao fusion salad is called “Luang Prabang Salad” after the seat of Lao kings and French governors, where it originated.

Best Luang Prabang Restaurant to Eat the Luang Prabang Salad

Big Tree Cafe Laos Food by Authentic Food Quest

Big Tree Cafe & Gallery

Address: Ounkham Road, 46 Ban Vat Nong, Luang Prabang

Hours: Open Monday – Saturday; 9:00 am – 8:00 pm

Price: Luang Prabang Salad ₭35,000 Lao Kip (approx $2 USD)

14. Or Lam – Luang Prabang’s Signature Buffalo Stew

Or Lam Braised Buffalo Stew Laos Cuisine at Rosewood Luang Prabang by Authentic Food Quest
Or Lam – Braised buffalo stew with pepperwood

Or Lam (also spelled Oor Lam, Orlam, or Ô-Lam) is Luang Prabang’s signature stew. It is a soupy stew, with vegetables and a variety of meats and thickened with puréed eggplants.

We had this dish while exploring Royal Lao food at the Rosewood Luang Prabang. The original royal recipe, according to Sebastien Rubis, the Culinary Director, whom we met, claims the recipe originally used deer meat.

 At the Rosewood Luang Prabang, the recipe has been modified and uses buffalo instead. 

Many restaurants in Luang Prabang offer meat alternatives, such as chicken. We recommend tasting the conventional water buffalo instead.

One of the most distinct ingredients in Or Lam is a piece of wood called sakkhan, also known as peppered wood. 

This wood adds a hint of chili pepper taste to the dish. The wood is not edible and only added for flavor.

We enjoyed the complex flavors of this stew. And the buffalo version had intriguing combinations of flavors and textures.

Be careful to avoid eating the wood. Rosemary mistakenly chewed a piece thinking it was a piece of buffalo and she found the wood to have a slightly numbing effect in the mouth.

Best Restaurants in Luang Prabang to Have Or Lam

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The Great House Restaurant at Rosewood Luang Prabang – Photo courtesy of Rosewood Luang Prabang

As Or Lam is one of the most traditional dishes of Luang Prabang and a Royal Laos dish, we recommend eating it at the Great House Restaurant at the Rosewood Luang Prabang. 

The menu at the Great House embraces the local culture and emphasizes locally sourced and seasonal foods. Traditional cooking methods are also employed which bring out the full flavors of each dish.

The Great House Restaurant

Address: Rosewood Luang Prabang, Ban Nadueay, Luang Prabang

Hours: Open daily,11:30 am – 3:00 pm and 5:30 pm – 10:30 pm 

Price: Or Lam Gnoua or braised water buffalo – $12 USD

If you are looking for a Luang Prabang restaurant next to the old city, Dyen Sabai Restaurant is another great option. Be sure to try the original buffalo version of Or Lam.

Dyen Sabai Restaurant

Address: Ban Phan Louang, Luang Prabang 

Hours: Open every day, 10:00 am – 11:30 pm

Price: ₭60,000 Lao Kip for a serving of Or Lam (approx $3.48 USD)

AUTHENTIC FOD QUEST TIP:  Luang Prabang is one of the most charming destinations in southeast Asia, and you’ll find a growing collection of high-end boutique hotels. We toured the villas and rooms at the Rosewood Luang Prabang on our visit to discover Royal Laos cuisine. For an exceptional stay in Laos, we highly recommend it. You’ll also find more options in Luang Prabang center here.

15. Laos Desserts

Coconut Rice Pancake or Khanom Nom Kok Laos Food Desserts by Authentic Food Quest
Delightful Laos coconut rice pancakes

At home, Laotian families typically eat their meals together, and all the dishes are served at the same time. There is no starter or dessert in Lao cuisine; everything is eaten together.

As a result, there is no strong tradition of desserts. However, two key foods of local cuisine are found in Lao desserts – coconuts and bananas. 

Many families have coconut trees in their gardens, and they use coconut milk for desserts and juice to accompany the meals. 

Bananas are also wildly available and used to make local Laos desserts.

You’ll find many sweets and other snacks made with bananas or coconut found at fruit stalls or sold by street vendors. 

One of the Laos desserts we enjoy the most are small round coconut rice pancakes cooked in a mold griddle called Khanom Nom Kok.

These small pancakes are slightly chewy, and made with rice and coconut milk with mild, sweet flavors. 

We also enjoyed a triangular-shaped coconut cake from a street vendor not far from where we were staying. 

This cake is packed with dry shredded coconut. Deliciously sweet, we recommend having your own, as the taste is addictive and difficult to share.

Best Place to Eat Coconut Sweets and Laos Desserts

Morning Market for food in Luang Prabang Laos street food by Authentic Food Quest
Find several Laos desserts at the Morning market

You will find the small glutinous round coconut cakes on the street at and around the Morning Market.

Morning Market 

Address – Morning Market: Sisavangvong Road and road near Wat Mai Monastery

Hours: Open daily, 7:00 am to 12:00 pm

Price: ₭5,000 Lao Kip for a bag of coconut cake (approx. $0.30 USD)

For the triangular-shaped coconut cake, look for the street vendors selling Laos sandwiches and other bakery items. We recommend getting it in the morning while it is fresh and still available.

Laos Sandwich and Sweets Street Vendor

Address: On Kingkitsarath Road, near Nisha restaurant, in the direction of the airport 

Hours: Open daily, 8:00 am to 12:00 pm

Price: ₭5,000 Lao Kip for a slice of coconut pie (approx. $0.30 USD)

At restaurants, many desserts you’ll find in Laos are Thai desserts offered to please tourists. For an authentic Laos dessert look no further than the Great House restaurant at the Rosewood Luang Prabang. They serve a delightful Laotian dessert with cassava, coconut, and banana called Nam Vanh Mak Gluey.

Frequently Asked Questions about Laos Food

Is Lao Food Like Thai Food?

Lao food and Thai food share some similiarities due to geography and history. The food shares common ingredients like fresh herbs, noodles, shrimp paste, and spices. This gives them similar flavor profiles, though their tastes are still distinctive. 

Lao food tends to be less sweet, simpler compared to Thai food and makes use of a lot more sticky rice.

Is Laos Food Spicy?  

Laos food can be spicy from the frequent use of fresh chilis in cooking. Spice levels, however, vary based on the dish and the restaurant. 

While not all Lao foods are spicy, those dishes with chili peppers make use of the readily available sticky rice. This glutinous rice helps to cut down the spice level and lets you better enjoy your food. 

Authentic Food Quest Page_Break

In Summary

Laos cuisine offers many simple delights and surprising combinations of flavors. As our cooking class instructor noted, “Laos food is simple, delicious, and healthy,” and we could not agree more,

These 15 authentic dishes provide a helpful introduction to discovering the unique Lao cuisine. 

Use this list as your personal food guide throughout your Laos travels. 

Have you had Lao food before? What Lao dishes would you be interested in trying? Please let us know in the comments below.

Savor the Adventure! 

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Laos Street Food by Authentic Food Quest

72 Comments on “15 Must-Try Laos Food: Explore Authentic Flavors in Luang Prabang”

  1. The Jeow Bong description you described as having off putting Buffalo fat in it, did they tell you it was Buffalo fat? I find it strange because I always thought it was rehydrated boiled/grilled Buffalo skin, not fat, hence why it is gelatinous and sometimes a challenge to chew through (though if prepared freshly the skin is chewy like pork skin).

    Also, you said the Lao refer to Sticky Rice as “Khao Jee,” but isn’t that specifically the grilled sticky rice (sometimes dipped in egg) snack? Sticky Rice, the common typical serving staple variety served in a bamboo basket to accompany food is called Khao Niao (literally is translated as sticky rice), some Northern Lao call it as Khao Nung (Steamed Rice) interchangeably with the term Khao Niao…steamed regular rice is called “Khao Jhao.”

    • Thank you for feedback on the article. Regarding the buffalo fat, that’s what locals told us. Sometimes, when there is a language barrier, the locals don’t always go into the details of the food preparation styles. Thanks for your thoughts about the sticky rice. Cheers

  2. Dear Claire and Rosemary,
    All those dishes look so delicious. They remind us of our earlier trip in that beautiful city.
    Just a comment on your following statement regarding mango sticky rice dessert: “”””Although you will find mango sticky rice sold at Luang Prabang restaurants and some street vendors, it is not a typical Laos dessert, but from Thailand. Many desserts you’ll find in Laos are are Thai desserts offered to please tourist.”””
    We are quite shocked by the statement. The Lao people have eaten sticky rice not only as a food staple (as opposed to Central Thai people who eat white rice), but also as desserts since a long time. Desserts like coconut sticky rice eaten with ripe mango, ripe banana, both abundantly found in Laos, have been widely prepared and consumed by Lao people in Laos and also Thai people of ethnic Lao in Northeastern Thailand (Esan) for a long time. Some Lao people in villages just don’t use coconut milk in the sticky rice, while others do. We agree that Thai food and desserts are very well known as there are now more than 14,000 Thai restaurants around the world, and many of them offer mango sticky rice and tons of others as desserts. But not every thing they offer in those menus are necessarily originally from Thailand (especially those preceded by the word Thai). Some few Lao restaurants in the US and Europe offer mango sticky rice as one of traditional Lao desserts. How come that this mango sticky rice dessert is claimed to be originally from Thailand (central Thailand) alone. Could you give us any reliable sources to prove your point, or maybe you were told so by some “Thai food experts”, or maybe some “Lao” food experts in Luang Prabang told you so. For Lao people, mango sticky rice is as Lao as are Larb, papaya salad, AND sticky rice.
    Again, thanks for showing.

    • Hi Pat, thanks so much for your feedback about our article. You raise a great question about mango sticky rice and it’s origins being Thai. Not knowing much about Laos cuisine, we relied on locals to help us identify the traditional Laotian dishes and desserts. Our Lao cooking class instructor very clearly told us mango sticky rice is not traditional to Laos, but eaten widely throughout the country. In addition, the most celebrated chef in Laos and who has also been appointed by the UN as the ambassador of Laotion cuisine, Sebastian Rubis, also confirmed about mango sticky rice being an import from Thailand. That said, historically, the borders between the two countries were very fluid and today there are many Laotians living in Thailand and vice versa. That could account for the similarity of the dessert in both countries. Cheers.

      • Thank you very much Claire and Rosemary for your replies. They are very helpful. I have just finished discussing with someone who is very familiar with Lao food and used to help the ministry of culture in Laos to create a list of Lao food and recipes from around the country (actually, I have now learned a bit more about Lao food). I was told it was a complicated task because Lao people didn’t write anything down, and on top of that different regions have different versions of the same dishes. The only early notebook on Lao food was published in 1981 by Alan Davidson, a former British ambassador in Vientiane in the early 1970’s. The notebook was written by Phia Sing, a former chef at the royal palace in Luang Prabang, shortly before his death in 1967.

        It is generally believed that he was the father of Lao food, and many people in Laos, both Lao and foreigners, nowadays used this cookbook as a reference to Lao food. Apparently, the books lacked many dishes from other regions of Laos, including the famous papaya salad, while some other dishes in the book are unfamiliar for Lao people in other parts of the country. She said the only desserts mentioned were sticky rice and coconut milk with durian (I have not read the book). However, according to her and other members in charge, they all agreed that sticky rice not only has served as a food staple, but also has been used to prepare sweet dishes enjoyed by Lao people in Laos and in Isan (Northeastern Thailand) for generations. For instance, coconut sticky rice is widely prepared and popular among Lao people, especially during festive events that exist in Laos these days, especially in villages. They are eaten with seasonal fruit, like mango usually from April to July, melon and ripe papaya, banana and others during other months. (This has been quite well-described in the Boat Landing Cookbook, on pages 173-174): https://ffnlblog.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/food-from-n-laos-pdf-2019.pdf

        Anyway, she was not really surprised by the fact that some people believed mango sticky rice is from Thailand. From the late 1960s to early 1970’s, with an increasing number of tourists visiting Thailand as well as the beginning of Thai food popularity around the globe, the Thai government began listing dishes and recipes from all regions, including the northeastern region, in an attempt to promote national unity and Thainess, and to promote them to the world as Thai dishes through the increasing number of Thai restaurants. In addition, early refugees arriving from Laos in the US and Europe began opening Thai restaurants by adding some Lao dishes in the menu to attract mainstream custumers, and in fact they help promote Lao food as Thai food. This is what Keo Sananikone, a former Lao refugee who was among the first owners of Thai restaurants in mid-1970 in Hawaii once said about Lao food: “””Why did a Laotian open a Thai restaurant? “Laotian and Thai language, culture, and religion are very similar,” Keo says. “But the food is very different. I felt Laotian food would not have been successful in America at that time. Laotian food is very basic and simple, and Thai food is very exotic and colorful.”””

        Since recently though, there is a Lao food movement led by Chef Seng Luangrath in Washinton DC with the primary aim to promote Lao food in the West. Ironically, she herself was the owner of a Thai restaurant, Bangkok Golden, but she offered two separate Thai and Lao menus. The increasing popularity of Lao food led her to open her first Lao restaurant called Thip Khao (sticky rice basket) specializing on Lao food, while the Bangkok Golden, is now called Padek. Subsequently, she opened two other Lao restaurants. In addition, other new Thai-owned Lao restaurants, “Laos In Town” (in DC) and “Lao Table” (in SanFrancisco) were recently opened. Hopefully this trend will continue. However, as you correctly pointed out, the cultural differences, including food, between Laos and Thailand are somewhat blurry.
        Sorry for this long reply describing what I have just learned a bit more about Lao food history since I read your article. Again, many thanks to you both for reading and, importantly, for showing dishes from that small land-locked country.

        • Thank you Pat for your long and detailed response. Laos food and culture is incredibly fascinating and unfortunately, not well documented. We did learn about Phia Sing, but didn’t realize until your response that his writings lacked dishes from many parts of the country. His selection of recipes could have been framed by the audience for which is he was cooking. It’s great to see the Lao food movement pick up in the US. Are you familiar with the book and restaurant Hawker Fare in San Francisco? In his book, the chef, James Syhabout talks about his journey to the US as a refugee and the Lao dishes that are important to him. His restaurant Hawker Fare in San Francisco (which we have not visited) specializes in Laotian and Isaan cuisine. Interesting comment by the Hawaiin chef!! We are glad to play a role (no matter how small) in spreading the wonders of Laos cuisine. Appreciate all your feedback and passion on this subject, Pat.

  3. What a wonderfully compiled guide with captivating photographs. As a vegetarian, I could n’t binge into a lot of things listed here on my trip to Laos. But yes, I stuck with the sticky rice but missed on the barbecued version of it that looks appetizing!

  4. I have never had Laos food. The sticky rice (and mango sticky rice for my sweet tooth) would have to be top of my list of foods to try! I’m also an egg lover so all those fresh ingredients in the omelet sound delicious.

  5. My mouth was watering while reading this! I adore larb, so would love to try it in Luang Prabang. The sticky rice on sticks looks delicious – what a fun thing to buy for breakfast on the go!

  6. Asian food has so much flavour and variety and looks like the cuisine of Laos is no different. I would love to try the dishes and figure out the similarities/differences with Vietnamese cuisine. Which was your absolute favorite?

    • There are definitively similarities to Laos cuisine and Vietnamese as well as northern Thai. It’s difficult to pin down an absolute favorite because it was all good. However, the jaew, sai oua sausages and the different noodle soups were high on the list. Thanks, Punita.

  7. I a lot of interesting and different dishes in Laos and cant wait to get out there and try them but for me, the most appealing is the grilled fish and looks like its being grilled a little bit differently if I am not mistaken. I could be wrong but it looks very yummy.

  8. This is such a useful post describing the food in Laos. Mekong seaweed sounds intriguing and who doesn’t love sticky rice! It looks like the people of Laos have been very creative working out how to use their natural resources to create delicious (and nutritious?) food.

  9. I am a spice wimp so I am sometimes challenged with eating in SE Asia. And we try to stay away from sticky rice. So it is good that skewers of meat and fresh fish are readily available for BBQ. That was our favourite at the night markets. The Loss larb sounds good if I could have it with no chillies. Good thing the omelet look good!

  10. I loved the food in Luang Prabang and everywhere we went in Laos. Looks like I have a few dishes still to try! A good excuse as any to return ?

  11. OMG, I’m glad I just finished lunch, I made a kim chi fried rice and it was good. But I definitely would love to try out all these other dishes with the sticky rice. Laos is definitely on my must do foodie visit list.

  12. Good lord, I couldn’t stop salivating while reading this post. Definitely pinning this for when I visit Laos. Particularly looking forward to trying the fish steamed in banana leaf!

  13. I always love articles about food and this one takes me back to when I used to visit Laos on my Visa runs when I was working in Thailand. I would always go and try local dishes. Amazing post thoroughly enjoyed it.

  14. Ahh I shouldn’t have read this before eating haha, I love Asian food so much! I’m not hugely clued up on Laos food, so this might be a fun experiment in the kitchen!

    • You are right Tom, Laos food does not get the same recognition as it’s neighboring countries. It’s amazing food and the culinary books provided are great resources with recipes. Check them out 🙂 Cheers.

  15. Great post, I’ve pinned it for later as we are hoping to travel to Laos with our 3 kids next year. I love a great comprehensive post and I’m always encouraging my kids to try new foods when we travel and this post is full of great food options to seek out when we arrive.

  16. Omg kill me now.. I’m sitting at home with an empty fridge reading this. Jaew is my absolute fave dipping sauce for, literally, everything. They get the balance of the flavours so perfectly! You have succeeded in making me ridiculously hungry.

  17. As someone who lives in LPB, I can vouch and say that you did an AMAZING job trying a variety of foods here! I would highly recommend Saffron coffee for coffee grown in northern Laos and Pasaneyom for a local coffee establishment (you are likely to be the only foreigner!).

  18. This all looks so delicious and is definitely the most in-depth local food blog post I’ve ever read – I’m truly impressed! I feel like I’m armed with all I need to eat my way through Laos, I hope to get there someday soon.

  19. The grilled chicken and the grilled sticky rice looks delicious! I love noodles too and Laotian cuisine seems to have a great variety 🙂 They have such a huge variety of condiments, or jaews, as they call it. They would brighten any dish!

  20. Luang Prabang is definitely on my list. Reading the blog helps to understand more of the local flavors. Neatly written and very information.

  21. Luang Prabang sounds like a very interesting city to visit! I never heard of Laos food , but it looks and sounds delicious! I think i would really enjoy the grilled sticky rice on skewers , sounds yummy

    • Laos food is growing in the U.S. and visiting Luang Prabang, the culinary capital of Laos, is quite an experience. The grilled sticky rice with jaew is incredible. Hope you get to visit soon. Thanks, Pam for stopping by.

  22. I have never tried Laos food in the past but I would love to give it a try in the future. I am all about eating new and delicious foods. We are known to travel many miles just for a delicious meal so this would work very well for my family, we may have to make a trip.

    • That’s awesome to read Melissa. We love it when people travel for food. A trip to Laung Prabang is worth the trip. Beautiful country and amazing local specialties. Let us know if you have any questions as you prepare for your trip 🙂

  23. That grilled rice on a stick looks really good! I’ve been to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and I loved the food there. Only sad I didn’t have time to visit Laos too, it looks fantastic!

  24. Wow, just to be able to go there would be a dream. Some of these foods I have never heard of, but I bet the flavors are out of this world!!

    The black spicy grilled buffalo sausages look tasty and is a food I would try if I were to visit.

    So glad you two can travel like you do. Have fun on your next adventure.



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