Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is a beautiful, calm city, offering a quieter getaway than cities like Bangkok and Hanoi. When you want something quick, cheap and portable, Vientiane street food is for you. Here are the best places to get it.
A well known market in Vientiane, the Ban Anou Night Market sets up every evening along the Khoun Boulom road, near the corner of Chao Anou. While a relatively small space, the Ban Anou market manages to cram a vast number of stalls. Weave among the different stalls and take your pick of hundreds of different dishes. If you want to start basic, try a steaming bowl of Klao niaw (sticky rice), Laos’ most famous dish. This is different from normal steam rice, as the rice sticks together when cooked. It is then rolled into small balls, and served in a bamboo basket, and often dipped in other foods and sauces. Lao consumes more Klao niaw than any other country, and it is eaten with practically all Laotian dishes.
Lane Xang is Vientiane’s widest boulevard, running from the Presidential Palace all the way towards Pha That Luang. You will find many different individual food stalls set up along the boulevard, selling a wide range of food. Try Laap, (also spelt Larb, Larp, Lahb and Laab) considered by many as the national dish of Laos, and a staple among locals. A type of ‘meat salad’, Laap is made from pork, chicken, beef, duck or fish, and can be served with garlic, lime juice, spring onion or mint, along with roasted rice. Laap can be served cooked or raw, (although we’d suggest avoiding the raw meat ones at food stalls, leave that for any restaurants you visit). You may also be able to find some vegetarian Laap, made with tofu or mushrooms. Laap is a simple yet exciting dish, with a variety of combinations, and perfect for a hot day in Vientiane.
Located at the junction of Rue Hengboun and Chao Anou Road, Ban Haysoke is a great place to find some proper Laotian food. The stalls at Ban Haysoke cater more for snack food so they are not the best place if you’re looking for a full meal. However, they are perfect for trying a range of different small dishes. Try some Lao sausage, (sai oua) a popular Laotian snack. Lao sausage consists of pork meat, seasoned with herbs such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, cilantro and galangal, and flavored with fish sauce. Sour pork sausage (som moo) is similar, but uses sticky rice which is allowed to ferment, giving the sausage a sour taste. If you want something more substantial, get these with a side of sticky rice or stir-fried vegetables. You’re the boss at Ban Haysoke.
The beautiful Mekong River runs through Vientiane, and many locals and tourists enjoy walking alongside it, especially in the evening. The night bazaar, one of the most popular night markets, runs alongside the Mekong. The Night Bazaar offers more clothing and trinkets than food, but you can find some food stalls along the River. It’s also the perfect place to enjoy some local Laotian food, as you can admire the view as you eat. Try another famous Laotian dish, green papaya salad (tam som), for something a bit lighter. Tam som is made from shredded unripe papaya, mixed with chili, sour lime, salt, fish sauce and sugar. Meat or fish is usually added too. The use of unripe papaya actually gives this dish a savory taste, and combines the typical flavors of Lao for something simply magical.