Destination: Laos: Luang Prabang
Many first-time travelers assume that Laotian cuisine is closely related to Thai (and some dishes are), but the culinary traditions of Lao, a landlocked country that borders Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Burma and China, are uniquely its own.
For one, the staple here is sticky rice, as opposed to steamed basmati, and every meal includes baskets of it served alongside dipping sauces and chutneys. The so-called khao niao is used in everything from topping (oftentimes toasted rice kernels) to desserts (my favorite during a recent trip was a concoction of purple sticky rice and coconut served at Tamarind). Fresh vegetables and healthy helpings of herbs are incorporated in every meal (it’s quite easy for vegetarians to find items on the menu) and dishes are generally much-less spicy than in neighboring Thailand. Fish and meat are generally simply prepared—steamed or grilled.
Some signature dishes to try while you are there: laap (minced meat spiced with lemongrass and herbs); seen hang (sun-dried buffalo meat, which looks like beef jerky but tastes so-much better; mok pa (fish steamed in banana leaves); and ping moo (grilled pork). Most meals are accompanied by Beer Lao, a tasty brew that is rarely exported.Best restaurants for sampling local cuisine:
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