There are lots reasons to spend a lot of time in Laos. This south-eastern Asian gem has gorgeous untouched scenery, friendly people and all the trekking, cycling and kayaking adventures you could ask for.

But if you’re anything like us, you’re going to Laos for the food. This is a land of punchy, vibrant flavours and moreish street food snacks you can eat with your hands.

To help you plan your next foodie tour of Laos, we’ve rounded up the best dishes the country has to offer – plus a few of the best restaurants, hawker markets and food hotspots to visit. So let’s get started.

Must-try Laos specialities

If you’re only visiting Laos once, here’s what you absolutely must tuck into during your trip:

  • Tam Lao – a spicy papaya salad with black crab and a strong padek fish sauce
  • Laap Naam Tok – a diced beef, lemongrass and mint salad (laap) eaten by scooping up sticky balls of rice and salad with your hands
  • Kaipen – a salty, crunchy bowl of dried and cooked river weed (it’s tastier than it sounds, and perfect as a beer snack)
  • Khao soi Luang Prabang – a satisfying bowl of minced pork, fermented soy beans and fermented flat rice noodles, in a broth fragrant with herbs and spices. It’s often eaten for breakfast, but you can tuck into a bowl anytime in Laos.
  • Hua moo Luang Prabang – a large minced pork sausage cooked to perfection on the barbecue, made even more delicious with plenty of ginger, lemongrass, chilli and kaffir lime leaves. It’s served with sticky rice and all kinds of tasty dips.
  • Luk Sin Pa – round, soft balls of minced fish and spices, hand-rolled before being fried or boiled. You can pop them in a khaopiak soup, or enjoy as part of a meat medley.

And if you’re staying in self-catering accommodation, head out into the countryside around Luang Prabang and pick up a bag of Tum khao poon. This is the Laos equivalent of instant noodles, with each bag containing noodles, pork, beansprouts, veg, peanuts and chilli sauce. All you need to do is add water and you’ve got a fabulous authentic Laos meal, with zero effort required.

Best places to eat in Laos

Here are a few of the best eateries to try for your first time in Laos:

  • Tamarind in Luang Prabang – If you’d like a gentle introduction to authentic Lao flavours, without diving in at the deep end, this is the place to do it. This family-run restaurant is known for its regular tasting nights and sample platters, and the owners are happy to talk you through how dishes are prepared and the best way to eat them.
  • Doi Ka Noi in Vientiane – with a daily changing menu, this charmingly old-school restaurant serves up everything from classic Lao dishes to unusual regional specialities. There’s always something new to try.
  • Lao Breakfast Corner in Savannakhet – This is the perfect place to pick up a delicious breakfast dish, including kòw Ъęeak sèn rice noodles in broth, served with crispy pork belly. There are also some sticky rice-based and deep-fried treats for brunchers with a sweet tooth.

And of course, this wouldn’t be Laos without an irresistible-smelling food market on virtually every street. A couple of the best being the Ban Anou Night Market in Vientiane, and the nightly Luang Prabang night market.  The best way to approach these hawker stalls is to dive right in and try something new. Be brave!

Want a personalised foodie tour of Laos? Book your trip with Blank Canvas and we’ll build you a custom itinerary, taking in all the best foodie hotspots the country has to offer.