Like many countries in the region, Laos cuisine is no less diverse with special tastes which are both familiar and strange. They are familiar thanks to regular raw material but strange with sophisticated and characteristic ways of cooking.
Sticky rice (Khao Niaw)
The Laotian specially likes to eat sticky rice. Once cooked, people will form the rice into small cubes, then eat by hand and dip it into the special sauce. This rustic way of eating, according to the Lao people, is the best way to feel all the aroma and natural sweetness of each grain.
Rice in Laos is not only the daily food but also associated with women. Legend has it, the goddess of rice dedicated herself to the fire and after death, the ashes of the goddess helped villagers a bumper, avoided disaster during a famine that year. In some villages of Phuan people, the remains of the nuns or female ancestors are kept in small towers built among the family’s rice field, they worship very solemnly and spend a certain day to commemorate their goddess.
Laap (or larb) in Laotian means lucky, this is a traditional dish during the festival of Laos and also the closest national dish. It is made from animal meat, usually beef, deer or buffalo, fish. Finely minced meat with vegetables and chopped mint and lemon juice. Laap is often served with other vegetables such as water mint, coriander. Laap is served in parties during special occasions or for the guest of honor.
Tam mak houng (Papaya salad)
Papaya salad – Tam mak houng in Laos is often dismissed by many people as it might be seen everywhere in its neighboring countries of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Actually, it’s very controversial about its origin as many people argue that it originated in northeastern Thailand or Laos.
In fact, the taste of papaya salad in Laos is quite unlike the Bangkok version as it’s saltier and grittier due to the bpadek, or fermented fish sauce. Mudfish is used to make fish sauce in Laos and hence it looks really different from fish sauce version in Thailand and Vietnam: darker and stronger flavor. No palm sugar is used in Laos Tam mak houng.
Let’s enjoy the ideal combination of sticky rice, laap and tam mak houng in a Lao typical meal. These well-known dishes of Laos cuisine would be a highlight in your trip to the Land of a Million Elephants.