Eating, Drinking and Nightlife
If your motto is the hotter the better, then you’ll enjoy the food in Laos. The food here is very spicy, with a bitter taste rather than sweet. Dishes regularly feature plenty of herbs and chillies, as well as raw veggies and sticky rice. For an authentic experience eat the sticky rice by hand, rolling little balls from a basket (tip khao) and dipping them into your sauce.
The national dish of Laos is laap - also spelt larb or laab - a delicious salad of minced meat mixed with a variety of spices, herbs and chillies, as well as a strong fish sauce, ground toasted rice and lime juice. The Laos version of this dish typically uses chicken, beef, duck, fish, or even raw meat, and is very flavoursome and fresh.
Tam mak hoong is another popular dish in Laos; another salad but this time created with unripe papaya, and usually finished with a very strong fish paste called pa daek and a bit of garlic and lime. The use of papaya does suggest that this is a sweet dish, but unripe papaya has a tangy taste and a firm texture, creating a savoury palate instead.
The national drink of Laos is Beer Lao, also known as the most popular beer in Southeast Asia. A crisp, clean taste, made with Laotain jasmine rice and available in three versions; original, dark and light, this is definitely the alcoholic drink to try whilst you’re travelling through Laos.
Coffee is also a favourite here, and is of very high quality. Ask for kafeeh thung to get the authentic drink, which can be ordered in multiple versions. For sugar and condensed milk with your coffee, order kafeeh lao, whilst kafeeh dam is used to order black coffee, and kafeeh nom for coffee with milk.
It is recommended that you do not drink the tap water in Laos, though bottled water is fine.
Outside of Vientiane you won’t find much nightlife in Laos. Instead the evenings are a chilled affair, with riverside bars and charming wine venues rather than nightclubs. A handful of nightclubs do stay open past midnight in Vientiane, but mostly Laos is a calm place in the evenings.