Strange Food: What do they REALLY eat in Lao?

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Strange food they really eat in Lao
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The top 10 weird foods they eat in Lao are 1) fertilized duck eggs, 2) barbecued bee larvae, 3) goat blood salads, 4) fried crickets, 5) raw sour pork, 6) live baby shrimps, 7) skewered frogs, 8) sautéed silkworms, 9) fried beef tendon, and 10) boiled blood cubes

Like a child not braced for his first hit of whisky, I’m often ill prepared for the shock of real Lao food. What the locals eat in Lao makes me shudder. But I try it anyway.

And take photos…

…just in case I need to show the doctor.

As I write this, I’ve been eating in Lao for 7 months. I’m lucky (in a way) that my Lao coworkers seem to enjoy testing me. To see if I can eat, what they eat, in Lao.

Will you be trying Lao food?

Prepare with this post. It’s dripping with food images. And notes on the Lao food culture.

You’ll see the Lao diet. And what you can look forward to eating.

As a tourist you won’t necessarily eat all the weird Lao food you’ll find in this post. Unless you want to.

Get ready to go local.

When you eat in Lao, the food gets strange. Take a look:

Weird Food to Eat in Lao

Weirdest Lao foods banner with vomit

Eating the weird food in Lao that the locals do is your privilege as a traveler.

Eat it or avoid it. But do take and share photos.

When the food is weird enough (and there’s lots of strange food in Lao), a photo is certain to explode the minds of your friends back home.

Let them eat the same hamburger and fries every Thursday night. In Lao you’ll be the adventure foodie dining on:

1) Fertilized duck eggs + 2) Barbecued bee larvae

Lao food fertilized duck eggs and bee baby honey

Fertilized duck eggs are gross looking. And have a lumpy texture on the tongue. But the taste is like chicken soup. Not bad.

To eat a duck baby egg, remove the tip of the egg, drink the liquid off, and then remove the meat (the ducky part) with a spoon.

And while we are eating babies, why not baby bees? There’s live larvae in every pocket of these Lao honeycombs. Here they barbecue it, then eat it larvae and all. Mmm mmm.

3) Blood salad + Blood jelly

Raw duck blood salad in Laos
Raw blood jelly salad in Laos

Surprise! The local food you eat in Lao often gets mixed with raw blood…

…without them telling you.

Goat blood and duck blood seem to be the popular choice for these parasitic Lao salads. Plan a date with the travel doctor afterwards.

4) Fried crickets + Fried grasshoppers

Weird food in Lao: crickets and grasshoppers

I never, NEVER, thought I’d say this:

I like fried crickets.

Crickets are a high-protein snack. And pair disturbingly well with an icy Beer Lao.

5) Raw sour pork

Laos weird food - raw sour pork

Raw pork with onion and herbs. Wrapped in banana leaves and left to “cook” in the sun. Another Lao parasite party!

6) Live baby shrimp salad

Dancing laap (called gung den) is baby freshwater shrimp, eaten live as part of a meat salad called laap. They stop jumping shortly after dousing them in lime juice.

7) Skewered frogs + 8) Sautéed silkworms

Laos weird food frogs and grubs
Laos weird food - silk worms

9) Fried beef tendon (various styles)

three styles of beef tendon in Lao

10) Boiled blood cubes

Laos weird food blood cubes

The Lao people eat boiled blood cubes straight up, and with most popular noodle soups. The dark-purplish cubes are made from pig or duck blood, and have little taste except ‘metallic’.

Well, that’s it for the Top 10 weird foods, here are some bonus foods that didn’t make the list (barely).

Cow lips + Cow tongue

Laos weird food cow tongue

Whole pickled fish

Laos weird food - pickled fish baa kem

Boiled chicken parts

Boiled chicken in lao

Boiled eels

Eels in a boiling pot

Bamboo salad + Soy-soaked eggs

bamboo salad and soy eggs

HA! Just checking to see if you’re still with me. Eating bamboo and soy eggs isn’t weird at all. At least by Lao food standards.

Chicken feet

(now that’s weird)

lao cooked chicken feet

Dessert!

(icy sweet corn and a green slime in coconut milk)

sweet corn dessert in Laos

Traditional Food Eaten in Lao

The following lists the food in Lao that is traditional. And the food they eat in Lao so much that it should be traditional.

Look forward to eating these when you visit Lao:

Laap / Laab / Larb

Laap traditional Lao food
Traditional Lao food laab

Laap is a type of meat salad made from water buffalo, beef, pork, chicken, duck, goat, or fish. Usually Lao restaurants serve it with a plate of green leafs, or a side of sticky rice.

Here’s the fun part.

You can eat laap with your hands. Use your fingers to pinch together a mouthful of laap along side a small ball of sticky rice (or leafy greens). Then munch away.

Be forewarned: the meat in laap is usually cooked. But it can come raw, with fresh blood, or in a bitter animal bile.

Sticky rice (khao niow)

Traditional Lao Food sticky rice in basket

Sticky rice is the most popular food in Lao. They love to eat sticky rice here. And so do I.

Restaurants serve sticky rice (the staple food of Lao) in a woven basket. From street vendors sticky rice gets less pomp. Vendors take sticky rice from a big woven basket, and sell it to you in a plastic bag.

Either way, get your hands in there.

Eat sticky rice by squeezing it into a small ball with your hand. Dip the rice ball into a sauce or pinch food next to it. Chew and enjoy.

And where you can buy sticky rice, you can buy…

Papaya salad (tam mak houng)

preparing papaya salad
making papaya salad
traditional lao papaya salad

Papaya salad is a traditional Lao food, and popular for lunch and dinner.

Or as a snack.

The main ingredients of papaya salad are green papaya chopped into thin strips, fish sauce, and hot peppers. Here’s a hint for ordering:

Learn how to say ‘baw phet’ (not spicy).

If you get a choice: 1 to 3 peppers are okay for a falang/foreigner like you. More than 3 peppers makes for a crazy hot Lao dish.

Stir-fried morning glory (pak bong fai daeng)

Traditional Lao food fried morning glory

Morning glory sautéed with soy sauce, garlic, and hot peppers.

Many restaurants have stir-fried morning glory, and ordering a plate is an affordable way to get some green into your diet.

Khao ji paté

Lao sandwich Khao ji pate

French baguette-styled bread is abundant in Lao.

Khao ji paté is a baguette sandwich, which typically has cilantro, chilli sauce, and mystery meats. I find khao ji paté a great hangover food.

Noodles Noodle Noodles + More Noodles

Do you like noodles? And can you eat meat? If yes, you’ll eat well in Lao. The Lao people eat noodles all day; breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Here are the main noodle dishes the Lao people eat:

Khao Piak & Pho

Traditional Lao Food Khao Piak noodles

Khao piak and pho (pronounced ‘fuh’ in the Lao language) are popular Lao noodles soups in a meat-based broth. Khao piak has fat-sticky noodles, while pho comes with thinner noodles.

Khao piak and pho often come with a side of green vegetables: lettuce, cabbage, long bean, mint, basil, bean sprouts, limes, and hot peppers.

Khao Piak Khao (khao piak with boiled rice instead of noodles)

Lao food khao piak khao blended rice soup

Khao Pun (noodles in a red curry coconut milk broth)

Lao food khao pun noodles

Khao Soi (made with wide-flat noodles in a pork-tomato broth)

Lao food khao soi noodles

FYI – it’s likely that boiled blood cubes will come in all the above noodle soups.

Pho noodles

Drying in the sun.

drying fer noodles in Lao

Where You Eat Lao Food

Eating in Lao tends to be social. Friends and coworkers share their food, and often order communal dishes at restaurants.

Hygiene sensitive? Eating with Lao friends is your nightmare. Hands end up in the food, and double dipping is standard.

Share everything

food culture in Lao group eating

Beer Lao EVERYTHING

Beer Lao owns the country. Or something like that. It’s branding is on every sign. Every table. Every restaurant.

beer lao table cloths

… Except the Wooden huts

wooden huts by reservoir in Lao

Keeping their rough beauty, somehow the wooden food huts in Lao have avoided Beer Lao advertising.

Wherever there’s a view, wooden huts with tiny tables seem to pop up. Sometimes you bring your own food. Other times someone comes by to take an order. Even though most huts aren’t all gaudy’d up in yellow, there’s still lots of Beer Lao consumed inside.

Lao Street Food

Meat sticks

lao street food meat sticks
bbq eggs and meat in Lao

Coconut sticky rice in bamboo (khao laam)

sticky rice filled bamboo in Lao Khao laam

Fruit shakes + Coffee in a bag

Girls buying a street drink in Lao
bubble time taro shakes
lao street food drinks

Lotus seeds

lotus seeds in Lao

Steamed buns filled with meat

steamed buns street food in laos

Sour snacks

Lao snack food bike

Bicycle carts drive around the streets of Lao, ringing a bell and selling snacks. Lao people seem to like sour snacks (like tamarind or green mango) with a spicy salt. Others popular snacks are savory (like boiled peanuts) or sweet (like sugar cane).

Food Preparation in Lao

Outside kitchens are popular in Lao. These food images show you how meals in Lao are done.

Roadside rotisserie + Roadside barbecue

barbecue street food in Laos

The barbecued bananas in Lao are one of my (many) food weaknesses. Hot, sticky, and delicious.

Open fires

women cooking fish on a stick

Table top grill & hot pot (zeen dad)

zeen dad cooking in Laos

You’ll find this table top device at ‘zeen dad’ restaurants. The staff place the grill on top of hot coals, right at your table. Use the middle for grilling thinly sliced meats. And the outside moat to boil vegetables.

Open air kitchens

outdoor noodle kitchen in Lao

Food to go

take out food in Laos rice and soup

In Lao, food to go means food in a bag. Even hot liquids like soups.

Western Food in Lao

Does this whole Lao food thing turn your stomach? Don’t worry.

Collage of western food in Vientiane

The capital of Lao (Vientiane city) is heavy with tourist restaurants. There’s a worldly selection of food available: American, Irish, Indian, Mexican, Indonesian, Korean, and Japanese.

Will you be eating any weird Lao food?

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