Lao Food -
and Restaurant Food in Vientiane
Lao food or Laos Food in general is pretty interesting to try. I had the pleasure of trying most of them while on my 9 day visit there. From local Lao hawker food to Lao restaurant food, I must say that it was quite an experience for me. Similar to Thailand and Vietnam cuisine, the Lao people also have a main staple of rice or sticky rice.
The first dish that I had on reaching my guesthouse hotel was the Chicken Laap. And I swear, this was the best Laap I have ever tasted considering that Thailand also has a similar dish and most of the local Thai restaurants in my country try to pull it off by claiming theirs are authentic and the best.
Next on the menu were some mini Lao deep friend spring rolls. Similar to the Vietnamese spring rolls, these were much tastier and the sweet chili sauce that came along with it was not as sweet as the ones you usually have. So, a thumbs up for the Lao Spring Rolls from me.
A typical Lao rice noodle with chicken and vegetable dish was also quite tasty as the herbs used here was different to the normal Chinese noodle dishes. Overall at the hotel guesthouse, the food there was above average considering one of the owners also runs a cooking school at the hotel.
While exploring the Talat Sao Shopping Mall in Vientiane, we had to try out some of the more modern looking restaurant cafes there. So just at the entrance facing the main post office, there was a nice cosy looking Lao Restaurant. Not to be confused, there is also a food court located inside the Talat Sao Shopping Center. This restaurant is facing the road.
The menu was in 2 languages, Lao and also English, however one of the items in the menu was pretty amusing. They were serving Deep Fried Crap, an honest type which I am sure was supposed to mean Deep Friend Crab. Laos is well known for their version of the Papaya Salad or Tam Som locally, so that was our starter.
I also ordered a Lao Fried Rice to be safe and to my surprise, it came out to be quite nice. It was not wet nor sweet and a whole lot of vegetables was chucked inside. Tasted quite alright.
We had also ordered the deep fried Lao beef as it was recommended by the local waiter there. The marination was well done with local herbs and the final cooking resulted in a nice texture which was a little crunchy outside. This was one of my favourites.
Inside the Talat Sao Food Court, I did get a little greedy and ordered a plate of fried flat noodles. Looking very impressive with the banana flower by the side, I could not wait to dig my chop sticks into this Lao noodle dish. Sadly to my disappointment, this was totally off my taste. It was rather different from the normal Chinese noodles I usually have and I didn't have a clue on how I was to eat that piece of banana flower. I ended up just sampling this noodle and gave it a miss.
Location of this restaurant:
Ground Floor of the Mall at Post Office Entrance.
Talat Sao Shoping Mall,
One of the more popular modern bakery cafes in Laos, the JoMa Bakery is the place to have a good hearty breakfast and hang out with the foreigners and expatriates while in Vientiane. Apparently there is another outlet located at the Nongchanh Water Park as there is more parking available there and the place is less busy.
At the JoMa Bakery, there is also WiFi available but you have to purchase it from the counter. Vegetarian dishes are also available here and there are English newspapers, namely the Bangkok Post or Vientiane Times.
I would easily consider JoMa Bakery much better than Starbucks. The food here was excellent and service was fantastic. If you're up for a cafe style coffee or snack, you should try this place. Anyway, you can't miss the place as it is near the main fountain in town area where all the cafes and restaurants are.
JoMa is also an acronym for the 2 couples that started this place in 2004.
JoMa Bakery Addresses
Nam Phou Café: 856-21-215-265
Nong Chanh Café: 856-21-223-765
Khop Chai Deu Restaurant and Bar
Khop Chai Deu is the most popular place in Vientiane. Trust me, everyday I passed the place, it would be packed with people. From locals, foreigners, travelers and backpackers, this was the Hard Rock of Vientiane. No kidding, the crowds just keep pouring in and eventually I had to check out the place to see what was so special about this restaurant and bar.
We went for dinner at the Khop Chai Deu Restaurant and were greeted at the main entrance by some lovely Lao workers. They ushered us to an outdoor table for two and a menu was left with us. In dual languages, it was pretty easy to identify the dishes. They even had a plate of fried bugs on the menu but I gave that a pass. I ended up staying safe by ordering the burger and a good cold Lao Beer. I must say, the food was good, atmosphere and ambiance here is amazing. Check it out when you are in Vientiane, no regrets.
Address in Vientiane:
Khop Chai Deu Reataurant and Bar
54 Setthathirat Rd, Nam Phou, Vientiane, Lao P.D.R.
Tel: +856-21 251564
Catering Service: +856-20 5619107
Walking around Thanon Fa Ngum Street in Vientiane would pull some surprises when eating at the local coffee shops there. The street is a popular place where most tourist and travelers would wander around day or night. Mainly because most of the hotels and restaurants are located here. So exploring the street, we decided to try out one of the local coffee shops here.
They have outdoor tables where you can sit and watch people so we decided to sit there. The menu was pretty much easy with a lot of local Lao dishes and some Western dishes available. Obviously we went straight for the Lao food. Starting with some Lao raw spring rolls, these were very similar to the Vietnamese spring rolls. Tasted pretty nice too and the sauce that came along was quite tasty.
The next was the famed Papaya Salad. I found this a little too spicy for my tongue but my partner Lilian loved it. Simple and effective as the kick back from the chili does get to you.
We then had the Lao Chicken Yellow Curry with sticky rice. This was done superbly as the taste of the yellow curry was really authentic. The flavours were simply awesome and it was not spicy. However, I still have not gotten use to eating sticky rice so I had a little but to compliment the curry and then ordered some plain white rice. So if you are exploring Vientiane, don't forget to check out the local eateries at Thanon Fa Ngum Street which is along the Mekong River. This place is hard to miss in town.
One thing that stood out like a sore thumb would be the local Lao coffee. Looking like a plain cuppa, when you actually drink it, it is really powerful. Laos is well known for their coffee and this clearly showed it. In fact, they serve the coffee with condensed milk usually and I can never forget how strong the Lao local coffee is. Till today, I drink local Malaysian coffee and it is nothing compared to this. If you are a coffee lover, you have to try the Lao coffee in Vientiane and also in Luang Prabang.
Baguettes in Laos are a common sight so trying one of them was also on top of my list. After tasting one from a local coffee shop, I never knew they tasted so good here. Simple and basic yet it tasted awesome. Must have been the fresh herbs and greens used here. The bread is also very nice. If you are in Vientiane or Luang Prabang, do make it a point to try these Baguettes. Usually there is roast chicken in them and one full baguette can fill you up for a few hours.
One of those nights whle asking around with the locals on where we could get some real Lao authentic food and we were directed to this place called Khambang Lao Food Restaurant. Apparently more locals dine here an it was located in one of those roads where there was not much traffic. So even more, it looked really authentic. By the way, we walked here from town center.
At the Khambang Lao Food Restaurant, the people working there did not speak or understand a word of English so we were in for a good time here. Trying to comminucate with them was hell as the menu was totally in the Lao language with some pictures. I think we must have spent a good 30 minutes trying to figure out the dishes and when we did, the food came pretty fast.
We had the famous Lao Beef Jerky which was a tad spicy and 3 types of vegetables. Also a bowl of soup served with plain white rice and some sticky rice. Seriously, I would recommend you bring someone local to help you if you plan to come here. The food was pretty good but I had no idea what we ordered besides the Lao Beef Jerky and rice.
Khambang Lao Food Restaurant
049 07 KhounboulomRd Watchan
Tel: +856-21 2171 98
Le Provencal Restaurant is one of the few French restaurants in Vientian which serves one of the best French Cuisine in town. Located just next to the Scandinavian Bakery near the main town fountian, this place is pretty easy to find.
We had a fantastic meal at the Le Provencal and for starters I ordered the Ratatouille which was really good. Pices were in US dollars so it was east to convert and they were in fact very cheap compared to back home in Malaysia.
Apparently the Le Provencial is run by a local family that lived in France for many years before coming back to Laos to set up this little cosy restaurant. The main chef, Mr.Daniel, runs the kitchen ala French style and also has a French hybrid pizza menu. The pizzas are known to be one of the best in Vientiane with the thin crust and full toppings. So if you're a pizza lover, this would be a great place to visit.
For the main, I ordered a Rib Eye with Rocquefort cheese, fresh cream and white wine. The steak was juicy and medium well the way I like it. Sauce was perfect in all ways and this was one of the nicer steaks I have had in a long long time.
Well, nothing completes your Lao cuisine with a good bottle of Lao Beer. This time around, I tried the Beer Lao Dark. It was pretty good considering that Beer Lao was the only brewery in the entire Laos.
La Provencal Restaurant
Address: 73 - 1 Pang Kham Rd., Vientiane
Phone: 021 219685
With this, I hope you enjoy your Lao food if and when you visit Vientiane or Luang Prabang.