Galangal, Lemongrass and Fish Sauce
Duck and Sticky Rice
Land of a Million Elephants: Laos has been called the Land of a Million Elephants. Elephants are still there, but modern Laos may now be the the .Land of a Million Motorbikes.
Laos is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia and is home to a remarkable cuisine. Still, fish is an important part of Lao Cuisine.
Sticky Rice or Glutinous Rice, steamed and eaten by hand, is the staple food of Laos. Laotian people eat more Glutinous Rice per capita than any other group of people in the world.
The Rice is usually served with Meat. The favorite Meat is Duck, which is usually prepared as a Larb (also spelled Laap), a kind of spicy salad, combining Meat, Rice, Seasonings, and sometimes Vegetables.
Laotian Cuisine: The original inhabitants of Laos came from a region north of Laos in what is today’s China in remote antiquity.The Lao Kingdom influenced the food and cooking of its neighbors, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. In more recent times, the influences have flowed the other way, from Vietnam, Thailand and also from Europe, via France.
Lao food differs from that of neighboring Southeastern Asian countries in several ways: Lao Meat dishes almost always include a large quantity of fresh raw Greens, Vegetables and Herbs. Also, savory dishes never had added sweetness, as in some Thai and Vietnamese cooking.
Besides Baguettes, which are poplar, and many French-influenced cooking techniques, Laos also produce excellent Coffee, both Arabica and Robusta. Coffee is usually taken in a glass, not a cup, and sweetened Evaporated Milk is often added.
Laos produces excellent Tea and the national brewery produces Lao Beer, which has won international awards and is sometimes rated as the best beer in Asia.
Health Aspects: Lao food is healthy because it is both low-fat and organic. Greens are consumed at almost every meal; the cooking is very natural and creative and uses lots of Hot Pepper based sauces. Chemical fertilizers and insecticides are virtually unknown. Local foods are commonly used, so Lao food is both locavore and organic.
A Typical Meal: Consists of Soup, Grilled Fish, Greens and a stew or mixed dish. Lao food is often eaten with piquant, hot sauces. Glutinous Rice is the most popular kind.
Main Ingredients: Meats and Seafood: Meats include Beef, Pork and Chicken, as well as the favored Duck. Although Laos is landlocked, fresh water Fish are common in the diet. Eggs are also used a lot. Other meats include Goat, Snake, and Rabbit.
Vegetables: Include Bamboo Shoots, Cabbage,Coriander, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Mushrooms, Onions, Tomato, Yard-Long Beans, as well as a variety of greens specific to the region. Banana Blossoms are treated as a Vegetable.
Fruits:The country has many fruits, including: Banana, Durian, Coconut,Asian Pear, Pineapple, Watermelon, Guava, Jackfruit, Rambutan, Oranges, Papayas, Mangosteen. Sugar Cane is a popular snack and cooking ingredient. Mangoes and Papayas appear in their unripe form in various dishes.
Seasonings: Lao cooking uses a wide range of Chili Peppers, spices and other aromatics. The most important is Galangal, which appears in most Lao dishes, often with Garlic, Shallots and Lemongrass. Mint and Dill are also widely used in Lao cooking. Fish Sauce is also widely used.
Cooking Techniques: Grilling is a favorite cooking method. Also, boiling, stewing, steaming, searing and mixing are all used. Stir-frying is common. Important kitchen tools include cleavers,mortar, rice-steaming baskets. Steamed dishes are often wrapped in Banana Leaves.
Important Dishes: Besides Duck Larb, Green Papaya Salad and Fish Soup (Keng Som Pa) are famous Lao dishes.The total range is vast, with many local specialties.
Ethnic Diversity: Laos is diverse ethnically, and the different regions and nationalities enjoy a wide range of foods, according to what is available locally and their own traditions.
For Further Information:
Xaixana Champanakone, Lao Cooking and The Essence of Life (Vientiane: Vientiane Publishing, 2010)
Dorothy Culloty, Food from Northern Laos – The Boat Landing Cookbook (Te Awamutu, New Zealand, Galangal Press, 2010)
Alan Davidson Fish and Fish Dishes of Laos (Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1975)
Natasha Du Pont De Bie, Ant Egg Soup: The Adventures of a Food Tourist in Laos (London: Sceptre, 2004).
Phia Sing, Alan Davidson and Jennifer Davidson, Traditional Recipes of Laos (London: Prospect Books, 1981). Alan and Jennifer Davidson edited and translated the manuscript recipe books of Phia Sing from the Royal Palace at Luang Prabang.
Service Géographique National, “Laos Ethnologique, 1:5,000,000,” (Vientiane: Service Géographic National, n.d.) . The map charts main areas inhabited by eight principal ethnic groups of Laos.