The cultural hub of Laos, an entire town designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the world’s go-to destination for all things spiritual – Luang Prabang is all of this and more rolled into one. Located in the northern part of Laos, flanked by the mighty Mekong river, Luang Prabang is easily accessible from Laos’ capital, Vientiane, as well as from towns in neighboring countries of Thailand and Vietnam, like Chiang Mai and Hanoi respectively.
Luang Prabang’s food, especially the street fare, is an important part of its cultural landscape. With access to fresh river fish from the Mekong and local markets teeming with fresh tropical produce, no trip to Luang Prabang is complete without a stroll down its alleys, tasting local flavors along the way.
Some of the best local Lao food is found in the street markets of the historic town, like the Luang Prabang morning market and the popular Night food street. It’s also important to be able to identify the right dishes to eat, from the right places. Thanks to the influx of western travelers, a lot of the food being sold may not be their authentic versions. To help you cut through the maze, here’s a list of some of the best street food items we think you should put on your foodie bucket list.
Grilled/barbecued seafood and meat
A very common sight in Luang Prabang’s local markets, grilled meats and seafood are probably the most widely available and popular street snack. Think, crispy, grilled whole fish or a piece of charred, barbecued chicken – they are the perfect accompaniment to the long hours of city exploration. The good thing about this kind of street food (other than the obvious deliciousness) is that most of them will get cooked on hot coal right in front of you.
Pick your choice of marinated meat or seafood and the vendor will grill them up for you right there. Can’t beat the taste of freshly grilled food, can you?
Lao khao soi
Any discussion of street food in Laos would be incomplete without a mention of Lao Khao Soi, a dish made of rice noodles in a spicy pork broth, topped with condiments like bean sprouts, fried shallots and fresh coriander. Don’t go by its simplistic appearance because this dish packs a punch in a bowl.
Often elevated to the stature of Laos’ national dish, lao khao soi is a mouthwatering street-side dish that’s perfect for those times you want something that keeps you going for a few hours.
As unlikely as it may seem, meat sausages of various kinds are a popular street food in Luang Prabang. Commonly prepared from pork, beef or even water buffalo meat, most street vendors serve sausages flavoured with local spices and then grilled on charcoal.
A great snack on the go for all you meat-lovers, don’t be surprised if you can’t stop eating them!
Fruits may not count as street food in most places, but in South East Asia, fresh tropical fruits are a perfectly legit snack. Stock up some of the gorgeous produce from the local markets and keep those midday hunger pangs at bay in the healthiest way possible.
Take your pick from a wide variety of fresh fruits like mangoes, melons, avocado, pineapple, coconut or dragon fruit and keep yourself full and hydrated while hopping through the city. If you prefer something even more convenient, consider buying these fruits in the form of fresh juices or shakes – yummy and easy to carry around at the same time!
Ka nom kok
Coconuts are widely available in Luang Prabang and Laos in general, but this snack puts a delicious twist on the humble fruit. Ka nom kok is a pancake made with coconut milk, rice flour and sugar, prepared on hot skillets in local markets and served fresh.
Bite-sized, crunchy on the outside and soft inside, and light on the stomach, these coconut pancakes are a must-try delicacy from the streets of Luang Prabang.
We may have already made a mention of grilled snacks and fresh fruits, but barbecued banana deserves a place of its own on this list! Typically eaten by locals as breakfast on the go or a midday snack, grilled bananas are on a league of their own with a sweet, caramelly exterior and a soft, mushy interior.
These can be easily spotted on the roadside in Luang Prabang, being sold hot off the grill. Whether you’re a fan of bananas or not, we highly recommend you give this interesting version a try.
Larb, sometimes also spelled as Laap or Laph, is an iconic salad dish full of spunky flavours. Typically made with a portion of thinly sliced meat, tossed with condiments like fish sauce, lime juice, chillies and herbs, Larb can be had just by itself like a salad or even with sticky rice for a fuller meal.
Often made with fresh fish instead of meat, this dish is versatile, refreshing on a hot day and mouthwatering to say the least.
A close cousin of the Vietnamese Banh Mi, Khao Jee is Luang Prabang’s most famous sandwich and probably one of its most popular street foods as well. A crunchy baguette filled with pork meat, fresh veggies, pork floss and a special chilli sauce unique to this region, Khao Jee is what we call a crowd-pleaser.
Great to have for any meal during the day, these sandwiches are sold all across the city by street food vendors and typically put together fresh in front of you.
With an enviable variety of food to choose from, a walk along Luang Prabang’s streets is a culinary adventure of sorts. Keep an eye out for these unique dishes during your trip and take your taste buds on an exciting journey of its own. If you’re like us and love tasting the world on your plate, we can assure you, Luang Prabang won’t disappoint.