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
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
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
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
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
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
9) Fried beef tendon (various styles)
10) Boiled 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
Whole pickled fish
Boiled chicken parts
Bamboo salad + Soy-soaked 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.
(now that’s weird)
(icy sweet corn and a green slime in coconut milk)
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 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)
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)
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)
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
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
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)
Khao Pun (noodles in a red curry coconut milk broth)
Khao Soi (made with wide-flat noodles in a pork-tomato broth)
FYI – it’s likely that boiled blood cubes will come in all the above noodle soups.
Drying in the sun.
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.
Beer Lao EVERYTHING
Beer Lao owns the country. Or something like that. It’s branding is on every sign. Every table. Every restaurant.
… Except the Wooden huts
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
Coconut sticky rice in bamboo (khao laam)
Fruit shakes + Coffee in a bag
Steamed buns filled with meat
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
The barbecued bananas in Lao are one of my (many) food weaknesses. Hot, sticky, and delicious.
Table top grill & hot pot (zeen dad)
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
Food to go
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.
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?
Show your friends what you’re in for. Share this post now.