When in Laos, some of the wonderful things you might do are soak in the unspoiled countryside, stroll through rustic towns, and eat with the “Children of the Sticky Rice.” If it sounds like we’re joking, we’re not. Sticky rice, or glutinous rice, is the staple of Laos – so much so that sometimes the Lao people call themselves luk khao niaow, or “children of the sticky rice.” And what a wonderful thing to be! It certainly beats being children of the Big Mac, if you ask us.
Sticky rice is a delicious compliment to almost all traditional Lao food, especially larb, another national staple. A delectable and often spicy medley of minced meat or fish mixed with chilies, mint, and other fresh herbs, larb is a satisfying and ubiquitous dish for lunch or dinner.
If you venture north and find yourself sampling Luang Prabang restaurants, don’t leave until you’ve tried Lao khao soi, an absolutely delectable bowl of noodles. But don’t confuse it with the khao soi of northern Thailand. Lao khao soi is distinct and wonderful for its own reasons. Made with wide rice noodles and a spicy minced-pork broth, it’s a northern dish that deserves your attention.
A bit further off the conventional track is dried river weed, or khai paen. Similar to sheets of Japanese nori, or seaweed, khai paen makes a lovely snack with sticky rice, peanuts, or buffalo skin jam. Yes, you read it right. Called jeow bong, buffalo skin jam is a spicy or sweet paste made of pounded chilies, galangal, and the dried skin of a water buffalo. How do you eat it? There are plenty of ways, as it can be served as a dip for sticky rice or vegetables, or it can be spread like a condiment on a sheet of river weed. Sound weird? Sure. But the complementary flavors and health benefits make it a lovely culinary experience.
Here’s one last tip: at a Lao restaurant, don’t be afraid to dig in and enjoy your meal with gusto. You’re free to slurp your noodles loudly, and sticky rice can be eaten with the hands! So, now you’re ready for your culinary adventure in Laos. If you’d like some more information on a customized Laos tour, just contact our locally based Travel Specialists.