Although we are huge “foodies”1 ourselves, we did not know what to expect of Lao food. We wanted to surprise ourselves and are happy to say we were positively astonished.2 In general Lao food is comparable to Thai food. Both are cheap (by Western standards), tasty, and bountiful. The dishes in both countries usually consist of noodles or rice with vegetables and all kinds of meat or fish, but also have a lot of variety to offer to vegetarians or vegans. In our experience Thai food is definitely more spicy than Lao food. Obviously, though, they all tone it down for foreigners.
Our first meal in Laos
After our long journey to Laos we dove right into the extraordinary Lao food culture of eating (and cooking) on the side of the streets, everywhere.
Typical table set-up with finger food and Beerlao
Our favourite Lao food
Usually served with steamed rice
After the meal
There is a German saying that after a meal you should rest or go for a walk: “Nach dem Essen sollst du ruh’n oder tausend Schritte tun” (“after a meal should you relax or walk one thousand steps”).
We usually choose the first while watching the red sun going down at the horizon over the Mekong River.
Lao cuisine and hospitality also inspired previous volunteers to write about culinary aspects of their stay: It started with three “Falang-Friendship Feasts” (Team I and III), continued with a “Lao love story“, an homage to Lao fruit, and descriptions of communal cooking at the LGTC, Sikeud primary school, and at home in the villa with the new friends. No doubt there will be more to read on this blog about Lao food in the future, too!
Text by S. Roehm & T. Wedemeyer, notes by I. Martin
Photos by S. Roehm & T. Wedemeyer
1 “Foodie” is a colloquial term for someone who enjoys good food, a gourmet.
2 Editor’s note: Its most distinguishing feature from a Western perspective is its freshness. People go shopping and cook fresh breakfast and evening meals every day. Our busy Western culture of pre-cooking, using leftovers, ready-meals, or seasoning/cooking/baking ready-mixes, as well as the habit of storing food for days in refridgerators for convenience and to save time is not common in Laos. Fridges and kitchens are not common in the rural areas because they are expensive and unnecssary – cooking is done outside anyway, often right by the side of the road on a stove or charcoal grill, and nobody ever seems to eat alone.
From 12 a.m. to 2 p.m., the colleagues cook and eat together, get some street-food, or go out to a nearby eatery. After a while, we realized that it is difficult/impossible to schedule English lessons within the lunch break, so we (were) stopped. When we – the project leaders – started noticing that our eating sandwiches and crudities from tupperware boxes in between lunchtime appointments also met with mild frowns by our Lao official partners, we stopped that, too. We now enjoy regular lunchtime meals in Laos ourselves (“relax”).