Lao cuisine is some of the most revered in the world. If you want to take your language learning to the next level, this list of cooking terms in Lao is for you. We’ll start with a few essentials to get you going. In Lao, chop is fak ຟັກ. The cut is tad ຕັດ
If you want to learn cooking terms in Lao and the entire Lao language from beginner to intermediate to advanced, the Ling App is for you. More on that at the end. For now, here’s this week’s list.
Cooking Terms In Lao
As I’m sure you’re already aware, the national cuisine of Laos is rice, more specifically sticky rice ເຂົ້າໜຽວ, khao niao. If you can believe this, every person in Lao consumes 171 kilograms of sticky rice per year.
As you’d expect from a staple food that has been eaten for thousands of years, sticky rice has almost become a religion. And the people have a lot of varieties to choose from. Three thousand two hundred, to be precise.
Another famous dish is larb, spicy meat(sometimes fish) with different herbs and spices. Larb is also found in Northern Thailand and isn’t for the faint-hearted.
A curious thing about Lao cuisine is that France’s been heavily influenced, much like the Bahn mi is famous in Vietnam. Vientiane has many french restaurants, and if you go to any market, you can be guaranteed to get a crepe or a baguette. Note: the baguettes will be different from what you buy in France and might be filled with unexpected ingredients like shrimp paste, fresh herbs, and be served with a dipping sauce you won’t recognize.
A particularly popular noodle style is vermicelli, evidenced by two famous Lao dishes: rice vermicelli soup and spicy vermicelli noodles salad. Lao chili peppers are red hot, so be careful.
Links Between Lao Dishes And Thai Dishes
Many Lao cuisines have found their way out of Laos because of migratory patterns. The Isan region of Thailand has six times more Lao people than Laos itself. Also, because of the massive influx of Lao people into Bangkok, it could be argued that the most vibrant Lao cooking culture could be found there and not in Vientiane.
The reputation of Lao food has suffered because of the popularity of Thai food. Business owners try to entice more customers by saying they sell Thai when they’re often doing Lao-style dishes. If in doubt, look out for sticky rice.
Lao Cooking Methods
Lao cooking methods incorporate many of the same techniques we find in the West. Stir fry cooking is popular, but Lao people consider them more of a Chinese style. Lao people have a particular fondness for spicy fish soup and stews. Rice noodle soup is my favorite. (If I were you, I’d avoid anything with fermented fish and specially fermented fish sauce, which will stun your palate if you’ve never had it before).
For anyone that has been to Laos, you will note that a tremendous amount of grilling goes on. A lot of street food is done in this manner. The food is grilled to order at the side of the street, and you can sit back with a Beer Lao and enjoy your BBQ as you watch the world go by. Add some sticky rice if you want to be filled even more.
You will often see soy sauce, fish sauce, or chili sauce on the table.
Check out this Youtube video if you’re interested in more Lao cuisine.
Lao Eating Customs
Although Laos is a communist country, this has little to do with its communal eating style. Lao people have always sat down together and ate their meals collectively. Diners usually sit on a mat on the floor above a raised table.
Of course, like other Asian cultures, chopsticks are used. However, the exception to this rule is sticky rice, which is designed to be eaten by hand.
Lao dinners are often vast feasts, especially around the Lao New Year. If you’re drinking with adults, expect somebody to pass around a bottle of rice whiskey. Beer Lao is also popular and is often served with ice and lime juice.
Learn Lao With Ling
Let me take a minute to explain to you why Ling is undoubtedly the best app on the market for learning Lao.
Firstly, giant apps like Duolingo and Babbel have shown little interest in lesser-spoken languages unless those languages are on the verge of going extinct. That means your options are few and far between. Ling brings a similar learning style to the giant apps with more charm.
Secondly, Ling is exciting. Some of you probably get nervous when you see the words ‘learn a second language’ because you get flashbacks to school when there’d be those dusty old books and hour after hour of drilling grammatical constructions. Ling is not like that at all. We have 15-minute bite-sized lessons designed to stop just before you get bored. Practice reading, speaking, listening, and vocabulary. We also have grammar guides for those of you who want to punish yourself with Lao grammar!
This blog is updated weekly. It is an excellent accompaniment to the app. The aim of the blog isn’t necessarily just to hit you with vocabulary and facts but to bring to the fore some of the cultural elements you’ll find when you visit Laos(I speak from first-hand experience. I’ve spent one month in Laos and lived in nearby Thailand and Vietnam for a total of 5 years.)
I’m off to tuck into a spicy papaya salad with stir-fried glass noodles.
Goodbye for now!