Everyone knows that one of the best parts of travelling to a country you’ve never visited before is trying out all the new food, right? It’s one of the best ways to get to know your destination and its history, culture, and local food scene – and it’s usually pretty delicious, to boot! But, since you likely have a set period of time to spend in the countries you visit, how much food do you really have time to enjoy?
The answer to this problem is the same as the answer to all of life’s problems, really: snacks. And few places in the world are better to have a snack attack in than the gorgeous country of Laos. This Southeast Asian paradise is known for French colonial architecture, stunning mountains, and all kinds of food influenced both by the surrounding countries of Thailand and Vietnam as well as Laos’ own ancient traditions and French colonial history.
Between street food stalls and markets that are a foodie’s delight, here is your ultimate guide to the best snacks to eat in Laos.
Food etiquette in Laos
Whenever you visit a new country, you always want to put your best foot forward. Whether it’s learning a traditional greeting, trying to pick up a bit of the local language, or making sure your manners are always spot-on, you never want to be remembered as the rude tourist! Before you set out in search of the best food Laos has to offer, remember some of these etiquette tips.
- Leaving something on your plate when you’re being hosted by someone is considered good manners.
- Traditionally, formal dining in Laos is dictated by the concepts of piep (prestige) and lieng (nourishment). This means that the first taste of a meal is always had by the oldest person at the table, and each first taste continues in order from there.
- Try to not serve yourself food at the same time that someone else at the table is doing so.
- Remember that sticky rice is usually eaten with the hands!
What to eat in Laos
Sien Savanh, also known as “Laotian beef jerky,” is a hugely popular street food snack in Laos. Usually made from beef flank steak (though occasionally water buffalo is used in place of beef), the meat strips are dried in sunlight and then deep fried after being marinated in garlic, fish sauce, ginger, sesame seeds, and sugar. Try it with traditional sticky rice, or with jaew maak len, a delicious tomato chili dip.
Sakhoo Yat Sai
These stuffed tapioca balls are usually had as an appetizer, but if you’re not feeling hungry enough for a full meal they also make a great snack!
Generally, the balls will be stuffed with pork seasoned with fish sauce, lime, peanuts, onions, cilantro, and sugar, and then gently steamed. You’ll often find them served with chili peppers and fresh vegetables. The best part? Sakhoo yat sai are just as fun to eat as they are delicious – this portable snack is the perfect pick-me-up after a long day of touring.
Laos is home to more fresh tropical fruit than you can imagine, and one of the best ways to enjoy all of nature’s candy is through their famous fresh fruit smoothies! Ask anyone who’s been to Laos and they’re sure to remember these delicious treats.
Nearly every town you visit in Laos will have at least one smoothie stand, where travellers can choose which fresh fruits are blended with ice and occasionally condensed milk. Whether you’re looking to start your day off right or need something to power you through the rest of a day of sight-seeing, these smoothies could be just the trick.
This staple of Laotian street food is not to be missed! Ping kai is roast chicken that’s been grilled over a charcoal flame and marinated with fish sauce, garlic, turmeric, cilantro, and white pepper. You’ll find variations of ping kai all over Southeast Asia, especially in Thailand, where it’s typically called kai yang, but the original version was created by the Lao. Enjoy your delicious chicken with a green papaya salad and sticky rice if you’re sampling the Thai version, or raw vegetables and jaew bong, a spicy sauce, for the Lao version.