Laos street food is vibrant, colorful, packed with herbs and chilies, and the combinations of ingredients are guaranteed to thrill your taste-buds.

From Luang Prabang to Vientiane, you will not believe how complex, yet refreshing at the same time, the scene of Laos street food can be.

From scrumptious sweets to deliciously charred meat-on-a-stick, each afternoon around dust multitudes of food carts converge to Vientiane’s kerbsides peddling cheap and flavorful eats to the hungry masses.

The street food scene of Luang Prabang will attract you at the first sight once you step into the colorful night market. The smell, the taste, or the various dishes on offers all combine to make it something you cannot deny.

Laos - A dreamland of street food

An older grey-haired Lao woman in a lavender cardigan and a black-and-floral wrap sits on a cement bench outside her family’s shop. She sits next to dozens of dark green squares of cut river weed, spread over the bench and a bamboo basket. They’re covered with sesame seeds and drying in the sun. Most of the shop’s customers are Lao. They stop by to pick up snacks, chips, sunflower seeds, beer, lighters and cigarettes.

The shop and the bench are on a quiet street in the ancient capital of Luang Prabang, next to a popular papaya salad stand and across from a temple: Wat Nong Sikhounmuang. Built almost 300 years ago, it allegedly holds the largest Buddha statue in Luang Prabang. Its three-tiered golden roof is adorned with 14 nagas, magical serpents of the Mekong River.

The Lao woman tells me the river weeds are khaipen: an algae harvested from the Mekong River, its banks just a block away, or from its tributaries around Luang Prabang. Her mother learned to make it after moving out of the mountains and into Luang Prabang and taught her when she was young.

She says the khaipen is harvested in the cool season after the monsoons have ended, when the rivers are flowing clean and the water levels are lower. Local families, farmers and fisherfolk cut the khaipen from the riverbed, pounding, cutting and washing the weed in a flavoured broth before spreading it to dry and sprinkling it with seeds. Sometimes they add fried garlic or onion but this woman doesn’t.

Khaipen sheets are roasted or flash-fried and eaten on their own as a snack or with chili dips. They are sold by the bag in markets and a standard on Lao menus. They are stiffer than Japanese nori, the seaweed used for sushi. Khaipen are Lao potato chips, Lays from the bottom of a river. They are even slightly ruffled.

Khaiphaen - Laos snack

Food in Laos has a lot in common with the cuisine of neighboring Thailand: intense flavors, family-style shared dishes and ingredients—chilies, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, fish, oyster and soy sauces, rice, noodles. The languages of the two countries are very similar and Laos maintains strong ties to Thailand’s northeastern Isaan region.

But eating Lao food means branching out a little from the standard fair of Thai kitchens, beyond coconut-laden curries and stir-fried noodles to chili pastes, fermented fish, and some more dense and less accessible or familiar flavors.

Eating Lao also means embracing sticky rice. While common in Thailand, sticky rice is nearly ubiquitous in Laos. Khao niao, as it is known, is steamed for hours in a bamboo basket called a huaht and eaten with your fingers, dipping it in curries or using the rice to form a kind of scoop.

The food in Laos is diverse: traditional meals vary dramatically among ethinc groups, from lowland Lao Lum to upland Lao Theung, Hmong, Yao and Khmu communities. The differences reflect groups’ culture and history: gathered and foraged foods, like khaipen or wild cassava and yams, have historically been vital for groups living outside the lowland cultivated agricultural hubs.

The cuisine is also sown with influences from French colonial rule—baguettes and paté—and migration from Vietnam and Thailand, and more recently from China. Sandwiches and baked sweets are common. Many towns also have a restaurant or two serving Indian food.

What follows are some of the best and more unique dishes Lao food has to offer. It is a short guide to enjoying Lao street food and appreciating the differences between Lao food and Thai food.

The details of dishes will change from town to town and from the city to the countryside. Different areas of the country have been impacted in distinct ways by migration, colonial rule and the reach of the Lao kingdoms: Lan Xang, Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak. This comes out in the country’s food—Vietnamese influences, for example, are generally much stronger in central and southern Laos due to migration during French colonial rule.

A general rule of thumb: if it smells unfamiliar but the Lao guy next to you seems to like it, eat it. You will be happy you did. At least in retrospect.

Top 10 Laos street food dishes you must try

Below is the collection of our top 10 Laos street food dishes that you must try. Some of the dishes are also listed in our Top 10 Laos food dishes


Sindad is a classic social meal in Laos, a mix between hot pot and barbecue at your table. It is a do-it-yourself night out in Laos, a communal meal of meat and vegetables served with limes, garlic, chilies, and hot and salty sauces.

A crucible of coals normally sits in the middle of the table, with a domed circular pan sitting on top. The pan has holes to let the heat up and let the drippings drain. A small trough runs around the edge to hold broth. A server brings the table a platter of meat (mostly pork) herbs and vegetables and the rest is up to the group. Sin dad is a lot easier if you are good with chopsticks but if all else fails, ask for a fork.

Jeow Bong

Jeow bong chili dip is the king of sauces and bar food in Laos. It is blood red, made with dried chili peppers, garlic, fish sauce or padaek (see below) and a mix of other spices. It usually has shredded pork or buffalo in it but does not contain any raw meat; the dish is generally heavily salted and made to be kept for a while. One of the keys to jeow bong is that many of the ingredients are fried and just a little caramelized before being pounded to a paste in a mortar and pestle. With a little raw sugar, the result is a balance of sweet and chili heat. It is typically eaten with sticky rice, boiled vegetables or khaipen.

Jeow is also the general term for dipping pastes and sauces in Lao. If the bong variety does not sit right or the chilies are too much, look for others: jeow pla hang, made with salted fish, or jeow maklen, with tomatoes. Fair warning though: most jeow have at least some peppers in them.


In Laos, “larb” means fortune and good luck, symbolizing the wish for a peaceful and lucky life. A typical dish of larb is quite simple to make. People use minced beef, pork, chicken, duck, and some kinds of insides. 

If you eat the pork larb, there will also be some slices of chewy pork skin to add some more texture to the dish. The meat is then mixed with spices such as lemon juice, galangal, lemongrass, onions, lots of peppers, and then served with roasted rice. Larb is a staple among locals and some people consider it the unofficial national dish of Laos. 

Laotians often prefer raw meat for a fresh and juicy taste. For those of you who are not into the raw goodie, the meat will be cooked before mixing. There is also an option of vegetarian larb made with tofu and mushrooms. Larb is an exciting dish to try on a hot day in Vientiane. 

Laotians often eat raw larb to feel the freshness of the meat and the rich taste of the insides. To those who are not used to eating raw meat, the dish will be cooked for you.

Here is out dedicated article about Laos larb

Tam Mak Hoong (Papaya Salad)

Tam Mak Hoong papaya salad is bright, fresh and soaked in umami. Made with garlic, tomatoes, chilies, sugar and lime or tamarind juice, this is another Thai-Lao shared dish, but the Lao version features fragrant padaek instead of normal fish sauce. This isn’t comparable to any fruit salad outside of Southeast Asia: it’s green, unripe papaya doused in enough flavor that it’s sometimes hard to eat without diluting it slightly with the requisite sticky rice.

Tam is the general term for any salad pounded with a mortar and pestle, characterized by the combination of spicy, sour, sweet and salty flavors. Other versions feature cucumber, various seafoods and green mango or other fruits. Eat a plate every day or two. It’s like taking your vitamins in Laos.

Check out the difference between Laos-style and Thai-style papaya salad

Khao Piak Sen

While versions of Vietnamese phở noodle soup are common in Laos, a comforting bowl of khao piak sen is a superior treat. Fat, handmade rice noodles thicken the rich meat broth covering pieces of pork or hard-boiled eggs. Toppings typically include watercress and mint as well as deep fried garlic or shallots and optional chili oil.

Khao piak sen is a standard dish at Lao social gatherings and parties. Though the broth and noodles take a lot of prep, the result is worth it. It is best to find a stand that touts their khao piak rather than ordering at any old place; chances are high that they will also serve khao piak khao, made with rice porridge instead of noodles. Both versions are typically breakfast foods. Get to the shop before the pot’s empty.

Or Lam

This stewed curry is a classic of the Luang Prabang area. It is also one of the best ways to try spicy pepperwood or mai sakahn, a meaty pepper vine native to northern Laos, as well as water buffalo skin. Over the past few years, Szechuan peppercorns have gotten a lot of hype for their tongue-numbing properties. But a chunk of mai sakahn puts the star of mapo doufu to shame.

Or lam consists of lemongrass, garlic, onions, chilies and meat, traditionally buffalo but now sometimes pork or beef, boiled with pounded sticky rice, eggplants and dark brown “pig’s ear” mushrooms. Some sources say the stew also takes whole citronella leaves and stems.

It is best to order a bowl of or lam as one of a number of dishes for a shared meal, with sticky rice and a few things to temper the strength of the pepperwood.


Padaek isn’t a dish unto itself, but any writing on Lao food would be remiss not to mention this fermented fish sauce. Much thicker than the standard fish sauces found across Southeast Asia, padaek has a gravy-like consistency and pieces of fish in it.

While other fish sauces are usually made with saltwater fish, padaek, or bla-rah in Thai, is made from freshwater fish caught in the Mekong River basin, cured and fermented in its own flavors. Lao cooks put it on papaya salad and plenty of other foods. It’s strong stuff. You’ll probably know if you eat it.

Khao Soi

If you’ve been to northern Thailand, khao soi is old news. But again the Lao version is a whole other creation, in some ways closer to the dish found in Myanmar’s Shan State, across the border from Chiang Mai. Lao khao soi focuses on the roasted flavor of the ingredients and is usually made with slow-cooked pork, tomatoes and no coconut milk. It’s often eaten with thick rice noodles.

Laos Insects

Similar to Cambodians and Thai, Lao people also like dishes made from insects. From crickets, ants, water bugs to spiders, these crispy goodies are cooked in many different ways they are equally delicious if you are brave enough to take a bite.

Laos Coconut Pancakes

“Ka nom kok” or coconut pancake is one of the most famous desserts in Luang Prabang. In the early morning, you can see groups of people making this delicate dish along the streets. Some make the dough; others put the cakes in sticks, and the rest are in charge of making beautiful boxes of banana leaves to put the pancakes in. When receiving this small but beautiful basket, you will feel like being offered treats by relatives instead of buying food from a street vendor. The secret behind a great coconut pancake is the salt added in the dough that makes the pancakes less sweet and more enjoyable.

Vientiane street food

Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is a beautiful, calm city, offering a quieter getaway than cities like Bangkok and Hanoi. When you want something quick, cheap and portable, Vientiane street food is for you. Here are the best places to get it.

Ban Anou Night Market

A well-known market in Vientiane, the Ban Anou Night Market sets up every evening along the Khoun Boulom road, near the corner of Chao Anou. While a relatively small space, the Ban Anou market manages to cram a vast number of stalls. Weave among the different stalls and take your pick of hundreds of different dishes. If you want to start basic, try a steaming bowl of Klao niaw (sticky rice), Laos’ most famous dish. This is different from normal steam rice, as the rice sticks together when cooked. It is then rolled into small balls, and served in a bamboo basket, and often dipped in other foods and sauces. Lao consumes more Klao niaw than any other country, and it is eaten with practically all Laotian dishes.

Find its location HERE

Lane Xang

Lane Xang is Vientiane’s widest boulevard, running from the Presidential Palace all the way towards Pha That Luang. You will find many different individual food stalls set up along the boulevard, selling a wide range of food. Try Laap, (also spelt Larb, Larp, Lahb and Laab) considered by many as the national dish of Laos, and a staple among locals. A type of ‘meat salad’, Laap is made from pork, chicken, beef, duck or fish, and can be served with garlic, lime juice, spring onion or mint, along with roasted rice. Laap can be served cooked or raw, (although we’d suggest avoiding the raw meat ones at food stalls, leave that for any restaurants you visit). You may also be able to find some vegetarian Laap, made with tofu or mushrooms. Laap is a simple yet exciting dish, with a variety of combinations, and perfect for a hot day in Vientiane.

Find its location HERE

Pha That Luang

You can find a smaller, less touristy food market up near Pha That Luang, the large Buddhist stupa and a National symbol of Laos. If you fancy something a bit sweeter, why not order some Khao tom? Khao tom (or Khao nom), is made from sticky rice and coconut cream, which is then steamed in banana leaf parcels. Other ingredients can be added such as peanuts, and a variation made with black beans is known as Khao tom mat. You may find some savory Khao tom as well, filled with pork fat and mung beans. Try the sweet filling for something a bit different, as well as ludicrously tasty.

Find its location HERE

Ban Haysoke

Located at the junction of Rue Hengboun and Chao Anou Road, Ban Haysoke is a great place to find some proper Laotian food. The stalls at Ban Haysoke cater more for snack food so they are not the best place if you’re looking for a full meal. However, they are perfect for trying a range of different small dishes. Try some Lao sausage, (sai oua) a popular Laotian snack. Lao sausage consists of pork meat, seasoned with herbs such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, cilantro and galangal, and flavored with fish sauce. Sour pork sausage (som moo) is similar, but uses sticky rice which is allowed to ferment, giving the sausage a sour taste. If you want something more substantial, get these with a side of sticky rice or stir-fried vegetables. You’re the boss at Ban Haysoke.

Find its location HERE

Mekong River

The beautiful Mekong River runs through Vientiane, and many locals and tourists enjoy walking alongside it, especially in the evening. The night bazaar, one of the most popular night markets, runs alongside the Mekong. The Night Bazaar offers more clothing and trinkets than food, but you can find some food stalls along the River. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy some local Laotian food, as you can admire the view as you eat. Try another famous Laotian dish, green papaya salad (tam som), for something a bit lighter. Tam som is made from shredded unripe papaya, mixed with chili, sour lime, salt, fish sauce and sugar. Meat or fish is usually added too. The use of unripe papaya actually gives this dish a savory taste, and combines the typical flavors of Lao for something simply magical.

Find its location HERE

Luang Prabang street food

Luang Prabang is the jewel of Southeast Asia. The former capital of Laos is full of temples, culture and a strong food tradition. Travelers can drop a pretty penny in one of the fine dining restaurants located between the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers or venture to one of the many street food stalls in the night market or throughout the city to taste the local fares.

Luang Prabang morning market

Probably the greatest place to begin a local food tour of Luang Prabang is the morning market. It is friendly, low key, and packed full of Laotian ingredients including wild game and foraged herbs. I particularly enjoyed a grilled chunk of beehive honeycomb, and a bowl of soothing khao piak sen.

Find its location HERE

Night market food street

Located perpendicular to the night souvenir market, there’s an alley dedicated to Lao street food. Some of the food doesn’t look the greatest, and the vegetarian food buffets are cheap but greasy. I found the best food on this alley of street food are the grilled Mekong fish and a couple of curry / Lao stew stalls.

Find its location HERE

Stall across That Luang Gas Station

We were just walking around exploring Luang Prabang when we stumbled into this awesome street food stall for lunch. They have about a dozen dishes you can order, including or lam (type of pork and herb stew) and or bon (taro leaves stew), and a series of jaews (chili dips).

Find its location HERE

Love street food? 7 pocket tips for a happy stomach

Street food is cheap, delicious, or tasty but it is not safe all the time. Keep the below tips with you before start the exploration.

  1. Bring some medications with you in the unfortunate event of getting sick from the food.
  2. Only drink bottled water.
  3. Look for the street vendor with the longest line and get in the queue. Chance are high that the locals will know which stall is the tastiest.
  4. Observe the locals way of eating after they receive their dishes to learn what ingredients might be a good idea to add. Pouring a little soy sauce or a squeeze of lime can make some Lao dishes come to life in a scrumptious and flavorsome way.
  5. In the event of a language barrier, vegetarians or travelers with food allergies should save images of these food items onto their cellphones and show them to the food vendors or restaurants with a big shake of the head to best convey their message.
  6. Avoid raw meat in Laos even though it is a common ingredient in the popular Laab dish. Ask for the meat to be stir-fried and avoid it entirely if it is in-refrigerated or the smell starts getting a bit strange
  7. Practice your pronunciation of “Khao Niaw”, “Khao Piak Sen”,” Khao Jee” or anything else that you might want to sample. A bit of effort, a welcoming, toothy smile and a friendly attitude will go a long way in your social interactions in Laos. 
24-hour response

My name is Jolie, I am a Vietnamese girl growing up in the countryside of Hai Duong, northern Vietnam. Since a little girl, I was always dreaming of exploring the far-away lands, the unseen beauty spots of the world. My dream has been growing bigger and bigger day after day, and I do not miss a chance to make it real. After graduating from the univesity of language in Hanoi, I started the exploration with a travel agency and learning more about travel, especially responsible travel. I love experiencing the different cultures of the different lands and sharing my dream with the whole world. Hope that you love it too!


The core difference between Thai green papaya salad and Laos green papaya salad is the liquid component of the recipe along with the topping.

Thai papaya salad, referred to as Som Tam, uses mainly fish sauce as the flavoring condiment and is generally topped with crushed roasted peanut. 

Laos papaya salad, referred to as Tam Mak Hoong, uses fermented crab dip (nam pu) and padaek as flavoring condiments

The classic green papaya salad is loved throughout southeast Asia in various forms, but the two most popular are the Thai and Lao style papaya salad. 

Padaek, sometimes known as padek, or Lao fish sauce or pla-ra in Thailand, is a traditional Lao condiment made from pickled or fermented fish that has been cured. It is thicker and more seasoned than the fish sauce more commonly seen throughout Thailand and Vietnam, often containing chunks of fish. The fermentation takes a long time, giving padaek an aroma similar to cheeses like Époisses.

Unlike other versions of fish sauce in Southeast Asia, padaek is made from freshwater fish, owing to the landlocked nature of the former kingdom of Lan Xang. Padaek is used in many dishes, most notably tam maak hoong, a spicy Lao papaya salad.


In Laos, food is the most important activity throughout the day. In the local language, it is quite common for people to greet each other by immediately asking, “Have you eaten food?” (“Kin khao laeo bor?”). Food is often the topic of many conversations, especially when eating and sharing dishes between friends and family. Additionally, Lao people take great passion in sharing traditional dishes with curious travelers.

Laotian dishes are very similar to Thailand and Vietnam in terms of flavor and ingredients, which often consist of fresh herb, spices, noodles, and rice. Khao niaw (sticky rice) is a staple food among the Laotians. Traditionally steamed in a cone-shaped bamboo basket, the rice is then placed in a covered basket, where it is eaten by hand alongside spicy soup, and meat-based dishes. Eating in Laos is also a communal activity, where dishes are shared by all at the table. 


Larb! Larb! Larb!

If you have already traveled to Laos, you will realize that it is one of the highlighted dishes of your trip.

Larb is basically a salad - made out of meat. (So, like, the best KIND of salad, right?). It’s a meat salad from Laos that has made its way into Thailand and other areas of Southeast Asia, as well as many countries in the world.

Like other dishes in Southeast Asian cooking, the dish combines savory flavors with fresh ones - fresh herbs like cilantro, scallions, and mint, and fresh lime juice. The addition of toasted ground rice also adds texture and nuttiness to the final dish.


Sticky rice is the staple food of any Laotian meal. It is called “khao niew” and made from glutinous rice. It contains a higher sugar level than normal rice, which gives it its stickiness.

Despite the name (glutinous rice), Laotian sticky rice is gluten free and therefore great for people with celiac. Sticky rice is steamed and traditionally served in small cute bamboo baskets in Laos called “lao aep khao”.

Sticky rice is a traditional Lao and Thai base dish that is served and paired another delicious main meal. You typically do not eat sticky rice on its own unless it’s been transformed into a dessert that is doused in coconut milk or sugar (if you’ve had Lao food, what I’m referring to here is purple rice). 

Sticky rice is a transparent and opaque rice that requires soaking overnight for preparations. Once cooked, the rice “sticks” to each other, and you use your hands to eat the rice by forming delicious little balls of rice and putting it into your mouth!


Experiencing all that Lao cuisine has to offer is not an experience for the faint of heart. Laos’ famous fermented fish sauce, padek, has a distinct fragrance. Insects ranging from silkworms to ants and crickets can be found on many menus. Raw and cooked meats from all manner of animals are grilled and served on a stick or sautéed and served with rice. 

Ah, while we are learning about Laos traditional dishes, why don't we take a break and take a bite of Laos food history and culture.

In case you want to move directly to the dishes that you prefer, just navigate via the below table of content.


Fresh herbs, hearty soups and powerful, funky fish flavors are just a few of the hallmarks of Laotian food, a cuisine that isn’t widely represented in the world but is showcased at a number of excellent restaurants in some big cities like NYC, Seattle, London, Sydney, or Melbourne.

Papaya salad, beef jerky, sticky rice and laap, or larb, are examples of typical Laotian dishes - there’s a commonality with Northern Thai food that frequently causes the two cuisines to be lumped together. Lao food, though, has unique characteristics that give it a flavor all its own.

Below is our recommended list of restaurants in Laos & some big cities where you can really enjoy the authentic Laos food.


We believe you have the right to arm yourselves with as much information as possible before making any decision.

Check below the detailed information for our different destinations, our plans by travel theme or time frame to learn more before moving forward...

places to visit in Laos
Luang Prabang
bee-white Luang Prabang

The ancient capital of Lane Xang Kingdom

Vang Vieng
bee-white Vang Vieng

bee-white Vientiane

The ancient capital of Lane Xang Kingdom

4000 Islands
bee-white 4000 Islands

bee-white Phonsavan

Nong Khiaw
bee-white Nong Khiaw

Family Vacation
bee-white Family Vacation

The combination of fun and educational activities

Cycling & Biking
bee-white Cycling & Biking

Explore every corners of the destination on two wheels

bee-white Must-see

Check out all the must-see places and things to do & see

Luxury Holiday
bee-white Luxury Holiday

Unique experience combined with top-notch services

Honeymoon Vacation
bee-white Honeymoon Vacation

Easy excursions combined with unique experience making the long-lasting romantic memories

Trek & Hike
bee-white Trek & Hike

Explore the least visited destinations and unknown experience on foot

bee-white Cruise

The combination of some must-see experience and the cruise tour along the mighty rivers

bee-white Unseen

Reveal off-the-beatentrack routes, least explored destinations, and unknown tribe groups

Wellness & Leisure
bee-white Wellness & Leisure

Easy excursion combined with week-long beach break

white-icon About 1 week
yellow-icon About 1 week
white-icon About 2 weeks
yellow-icon About 2 weeks
white-icon About 3 weeks
yellow-icon About 3 weeks
white-icon About 4 weeks
yellow-icon About 4 weeks
Already got a plan? REQUEST A FREE QUOTE

Either are you wondering about best time to visit, visa policy, or how to get the cheapest flight, we have your back!
WHAT MORE? Choose the country you plan to visit, then search for your nationality below to see our special travel tips & advice for your country. CONTACT US if you cannot find yours.

Tourist Visa Policy
bee-white Tourist Visa Policy
Best Time to Visit
bee-white Best Time to Visit
Budget & Currency
bee-white Budget & Currency
Getting Around
bee-white Getting Around
Getting Flight There
bee-white Getting Flight There
Buying & Bargaining
bee-white Buying & Bargaining
Useful addresses
bee-white Useful addresses
Internet & Phone
bee-white Internet & Phone
Packing List
bee-white Packing List
Tipping Customs
bee-white Tipping Customs
Safety & Precautions
bee-white Safety & Precautions
Local Etiquette
bee-white Local Etiquette
Travel Insurance
bee-white Travel Insurance
bee-white Vaccinations
bee-white Vietnam
A land of staggering natural beauty and cultural complexities, of dynamic megacities and hill-tribe villages, Vietnam is both exotic and compelling.
bee-white Thailand
Friendly and food-obsessed, hedonistic and historic, cultured and curious, Thailand tempts visitors with a smile as golden as the country's glittering temples and tropical beaches.
bee-white Cambodia
There's a magic about this charming yet confounding kingdom that casts a spell on visitors. In Cambodia, ancient and modern worlds collide to create an authentic adventure.
bee-white Myanmar
It's a new era for this extraordinary and complex land, where the landscape is scattered with gilded pagodas and the traditional ways of Asia endure.
back top