Daily Life :: Food

Typical meal: The essential components of a typical Lao meal are steamed sticky rice (khao niaw), chilli paste, soup, a meat dish (usually fish) and a vegetable dish (usually fresh raw greens).

Manner of eating: The traditional manner of eating was communal - diners sit on a mat on the floor around a raised rattan platform called "ka toke". Dishes and baskets of sticky rice are arranged on this food platform. Nowadays, eating at a "ka toke" is the exception rather than the rule and is maintained mainly at temples.

The meal is eaten using the hand. Using your right hand, pinch off a bit of rice, roll into a ball, dip into the chili paste, grab a piece of food and munch away.

National dish: The national dish is laap (sometimes spelled larb), a "salad" of minced meat/fish mixed with herbs, spices, lime juice and chilli. Other favourites include the spicy green papaya salad (tam maak hung) and spicy grilled chicken.

Uniqueness of Lao food: Lao food differs from neighboring cuisines in multiple respects.
  • Almost always includes fresh raw greens, vegetables and herbs served undressed on the side.
  • Savory dishes are never sweet.
  • Some dishes are bitter.
  • Galangal (related to ginger) is a cooking herb that is heavily favored.
  • Food is frequently eaten at room temperature.