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Vientiane: A Visitor’s Guide

5Lao Food

A market stall selling French sticks.
A market stall selling

For a taste of genuine Lao food try the stalls along Thanon Fa Ngum on the bank of the Mekong. You can get spicy green-papaya salad and barbecued fish or chicken along with sticky rice which is all pretty safe to eat and very reasonably priced. The side plate of fresh greens though is probably not safe to eat. Wash it all down with juice from a freshly opened coconut.


Lao food is eaten with the hands but unlike Indian dining, it is not done to dive in with your whole hand. Instead a ball of rice is taken from the rice basket, with the left hand usually, then smaller bite-sized pieces are taken from that with the other hand, and rolled between the fingers then dipped into the communal dish, placed into one side of the mouth and chewed.

A market stall selling Roots & spices.
Medicinal roots & barks used to prepare
traditional medicine.

Fish or meat is taken up in the hands and pieces broken off and popped into the mouth. If soup is served then each diner will have his own spoon. Home meals are not usually accompanied with drinks. Once you have eaten your fill, you get up, rinse your hands and then scoop water to drink from a clay pot, first rinsing your mouth before drinking. In a restaurant drinks will be served.

These stalls are pleasant places to watch the sun set over the river but if you suspect their hygiene there is a big selection of restaurants selling a variety of international and local foods in more traveller-friendly fashion on the other side of the road. This is definitely the best place to wind up after a hard day’s exploration.

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