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Laos Street Food

Last Updated on September 11, 2021 by Chef

Street ladies abound in Laos, you’ll see them on every street where tourist gather. Street ladies I hear you say? Sorry to disappoint but I am strictly talking of the pancake making variety. In Luang Prabang and here in Vang Vieng there are loads of friendly street food vendors lining the sidewalk offering fresh-cooked Laos style street food. Baguettes, pancakes, noodles, soups and. of course, shakes, much of it is not traditional Laos street food, but it’s no less tasty. for it. Laos street food incorporates traditional laos dishes like noodle soups and grilled meats, French-influenced baguettes and tourist-friendly dishes like shakes and filled roti.

While most of the street food stalls are identical in what they offer, they do differ in quality as you would expect. We found our favourites in Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang and Vientiane and once found we continued using them for the duration of our stay. Let’s talk about Laos street food, traditional, night market and tourist style on our food and travel blog.

Laos Street Food

Laos Street Food Street Food in Laos
Our guide to street food in Laos

Tourist or Backpacker Street Food in Laos

I’m a Chef but I’m not a food snob. Yes, much of the street food in Laos is churned out for the tourists, backpackers, and travelers. Much of it is Laos adaptations of western foods or, as you’ll find in Laos food generally, the dishes of neighbouring countries. You, as a new visitor to Laos, will want to know what street food you will be able to find and how to feed yourself on a budget. There are plenty of restaurants at all price points, but Laos street food is tasty, filling and cheap. You’ll find more typically Laos dishes a little way away from the Oreo shakes and tofu baguettes, we’ll talk about those further down the page.

Roti or Pancakes

Laos street food Roti or pancakes street food vendor cooking roto
Laos street food Roti or pancake cooking on a street food stall. Laos gets our vote for the best crispy roti in the world.

Vang Vieng street food stalls offered us tasty pancakes. Actually, these pancakes were roti but so much more delicious than your regular pancakes. The fillings were endless from banana and chocolate to chicken and bacon. Our savoury favourite was tomato, cheese, onion and, of course, chili. These super crispy roti are cooked on a big mobile solid top with hot coals keeping it super hot.


Laos Famous Street Shakes

Shakes and coffee street food in Laos
Fruit shakes coffee and baguette. The backpacker street food of Laos.

Not to be outdone by their southern counterparts the street food stalls of Luang Prabang were the shake masters. The biggest standout by far was the oreo and banana shake, a personal favourite of the boys. Made with sweetened condensed milk, this was sickly sweet and could only be enjoyed by those with an extremely sweet tooth. Of course, they made shakes in all the garden variety tropical fruits for the remaining tourists.

Laos Street Food Baguettes

Laos street food stalls Vang Vieng
Sandwiches, baguettes and a row of very damp street food stalls in wet season Vang Vieng

Laos street food stalls provide good fresh baguettes with all sorts of fillings. Filled fresh while you wait, we tended to play it safe with the cheese salad variety, minus the lettuce. Of course, not just any cheese but the white Laughing Cow type cheese triangles which we only eat and enjoy enormously while traveling. Cost-wise it was cheaper to get a baguette freshly filled than to actually buy the ingredients and do it yourself. Although visually similar to the Banh Mi of our favourite Vietnamese cuisine, the complexity of local flavours was absent and these Laos baguettes had a strictly tourist feel. That said, they make a good cheap lunch on the go.


Coffee Stalls On The Streets of Laos

Take away coffee was a bit hit and miss with the Laos street food vendors putting their own special spin on it. Coffee came in a milkshake container with lid and straw. Yes, a hot coffee through a straw and complete with a carry bag to walk with. Plastics are in abundance in Laos, let’s hope things are changing as rapidly as they are in other parts of Southeast Asia. You can see a street coffee stall in the image above. You’ll also find some modern coffee shops and bakeries in popular tourist areas.

Traditional Laos Street Food

The best traditional Laos street food we could find was noodle soup. There are many varieties but the photo above shows our favourite, a little noodle soup stall in Luang Prabang which offered meat-free ( although not vegetarian) noodle soup along with an identical version containing meat. We list a few more street food dishes you can find in Laos below.


Laos Noodle Soup

Laos street food noodle soup
Noodle soup- we found this away from the tourist street food stands and it was good.

Noddle soup in Laos varies, the dish in the picture above was from one of our favourite outlets, featuring thin noodles, delicate stock and plenty of fresh additions. Other styles exist, famously Khao Piak Sen, this dish is more robust and the noodles are thicker and spongy, we didn’t enjoy this version as much. The noodle soups of Laos, to us, didn’t seem to have such incredibly interesting flavours of those in Vietnam, maybe it’s unfair to compare.

You will also find Khao Soi in Laos, a dish synonymous with Chiang Mai in Thailand. The Lao version is different, lacking coconut milk.

The Luang Prabang Night Market Buffet

Street Food in Laos Buffet Food Stall in Luang Prabang
One of the buffet street food stalls at the Luang Prabang tourist night market. It’s mostly noodles and fillers and beware – I was very sick after eating at one of these stalls.

Spring Rolls

As for just about anywhere in Southeast Asia, you will find spring rolls, both vegetarian and meat. Quality varies as does the oil they get cooked in. The key advice is to make sure there is a high turn over and if possible locals are buying and eating as well.

Talking to other tourists will also give you some insider knowledge about who has the best spring rolls in town.

Laos Donuts or Dumplings

Asian donuts street food
Donuts in various styles can be found throughout Asia but Laos is particularly famous for donuts, with coffee in the mornings, another French influence that has remained.

We bought bags of Laos donuts many times at street food shops and hole in the wall outlets, the kids loved them. Unfortunately, I never took a photo. The picture above is from Cambodia, you will find fried dough sticks and balls throughout Southeast Asia and China, each will be slightly different.

Spicy Green Papaya Salad

Laos-spicy-papaya-salad
Spicy papaya salad in the making at a Laos street food stall

Stalls selling green papaya salad can assemble a dish of extreme deliciousness for you in minutes. This can be vegetarian or vegan if you ask for it that way, otherwise, it can contain fish products or meat.

Barbecued Meats and Fish

Food in Laos Street Food
Meat and fish on a stick ready to be barbecued on a street food stall in Luang Prabang’s tourist night market. Hover over the image and save to Pinterest.

Sausages – Sai Oua

Laos-sausages-street-food-in-laos
Laos sausages on a Laotian street food stall

Sticking with the meat theme, Laos does have sausages. Sai oua being one local term. Sai is also the sausages of northern Thailand, you’ll find them in Chiang Mai and beyond. We’ve tasted both Thai and Laos versions, I couldn’t tell you if they’re identical, but they’re both pretty good.


Is it Safe to Eat Laos Street Food?

Is it safe to eat from street stalls in Laos? Well, mostly, for us, yes it was safe to eat at street food stalls. However, and it’s a big however, I was seriously ill for several days after eating at the buffet in Luang Prabang. My wife and kids refused to join me in eating there and they were fine. We ate dozens of roti, gallons of noodle soup, but that street food buffet could be a bad idea. We mostly stayed vegetarian but I tried a few meat dishes from time to time. I’d also be very careful with lettuce, we saw the street food vendors washing salad leaves in a bowl of water also containing her baby. Just tread carefully and stay well if you plan on indulging in Laos street food. The baguettes and shakes gave us no problems during the 6 weeks we were there.


There was no reason to go hungry if you didn’t fancy a trip to the local restaurants. With the wet season downpours coming all too frequently, the friendly street food vendors even invited us under cover of their umbrellas while they cooked our favourite dishes. Just watch out though, I saw a couple of electrical blenders on the street food stalls explode in the rain. It all adds to the excitement really. In conclusion, you’ll find abundant Laos street food wherever there are tourists, authentic or traditional Laos food is harder to find on the streets and you may need to look harder for it. Laos food is often borrowed from Thailand or Europe, be sure to find the traditional foods of Laos in the local markets and restaurants.

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William

Sunday 30th of May 2021

Good job on description of Lao foods. I was borne in Laos Leave in Thailand Europe. And now Iu s Well. Those donuts is original from Chinese and most southeast Aïssa have lot Chinese immigrants they bought along cultural and foods Laos and thai foods are very similar if you are talking about eastern of Thailand (we call is San) those place was belonging to Laos before And iIssan people speaking loa language The roti you are talking about in Lao this is original there are from Indian people. There are few Indian immigrants thought out Southeast Asia too Have you visit Singapore and Malaysia Lot history and good foods too Just keep in mind visiting southeast aise Be very careful with ice water is making the ice I not that clean Foods meat and what is contained coconut milk this are the dangerous temperature Also we don’t know how long those foods been sitting there there or even before cooking too? Thanks

Chef

Sunday 30th of May 2021

Yes we've eaten roti in countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia. It's very interesting to trace the history and influences of foods around the world. Similar to languages, so many influences over the centuries.

Mary

Wednesday 27th of November 2019

This is an excellent post. I loved it. I am going to Southeast Asia in January and Laos is on the list. Thanks for the heads up on the food. I am going there for the food. And I love Asia. But I just want to wander the stalls and watch them cook and take some cooking classes in each country. Sorry you got sick. Same thing happened to me in Cambodia and the Philippines around ten years...lol. Oh well. You can’t win em all. I am really looking forward to the roti and soups. Thanks a million for this. I will read the rest of your stuff. Peace and love. ☮️?

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