Can’t wait to taste the savory rice noodle soup of the Lao cuisine the moment you land in the country full of flavors? Well, it is only expected. No human can tolerate their cravings for long when traveling to a country known for its unique mixture of tastes and ingredients. But hold on! Have you learned some common words for ordering food in Lao? While Lao dishes are found worldwide, if you want to devour the taste of sticky rice and fish sauce, you must enter a native Laotian restaurant in Laos. And to settle in, you must learn how to order food in the Laotian language to make your trip smooth.
Thus, in today’s post, we will go through some basic phrases and words that will help you order food in Laotian restaurants without any barriers. Although Laos has many multi-lingual staffs and helpers, learning Lao will only help you show respect for their culture and bring appreciation from the locals for your efforts. So, to enjoy the Lao food while also making the locals smile, continue reading below and become a fluent Lao speaker!
Lao Cuisine And Dinning Ettiquete
Before hopping into the vocabulary section, here is a quick peek at the Lao food menu and some dining tips that will help you blend in with the locals.
Although Lao cuisine is quite similar to Thai cuisine, there is a slight difference between the two that makes one individual from the other. While Thai restaurants have excelled in producing different curries with a coconut milk base, Laotian food is based on lime juice and is more savory, leaning towards heavier use of the fermented fish sauce.
Laotian cuisine is bold and funkier than Thai dishes as it is considerably spicier than Thai food. Most chefs in Lao say if the food is not spicy, it is not tasty. Many tourists, therefore, end up eating very spicy food as locals need help understanding western spice tolerance. Altogether, Laotians use heavier Padeak, the fish sauce, with more spices and have a strict distinction between sweet and sour dishes.
Khao Niew (Sticky rice), Spicy papaya salad/ green banana salad, Tam Muk Muang (Green-Mango Salad), Khao Soi (rice noodles), Paa Tod (Catfish fillets with rice flour), Sai oua (made of pork belly), and Laab Ped (minced meat salad)- National dish, are some famous dishes to try out with Beer Lao. Lao people have unique recipes, including shrimp paste, soy sauce, fresh herbs, vegetable dishes, dipping sauce, etc., typically served as side dishes.
- Food is often eaten with one hand with the use of a fork or chopsticks.
- Mostly Lao people use a fork in their left hand and a spoon in their right hand.
- There is no specific meal time or a routine, but families always tend to eat together rather than alone at separate times.
- Traditionally, it isn’t polite to raise heads above the level of guests. So, the person always brings food in a squat position to stay below the level of the sitting guests.
Ordering Food In Lao
Now, we will run through the words and phrases that will help you easily communicate in a restaurant and order food without the hassle. Let’s begin!
Entering The Restaurant
Once you enter the restaurant, the following phrases will help you get a table.
The first thing you need to do is greet the staff. Greeting in Laos is a regular practice that locals exercise to show respect and friendliness. So, once you enter the gate, make sure you say ສະບາຍດີ- sabaidi and greet the first person you see. Also, remember the culture of “nop.” If you have read previous posts, you will know that Laotian people greet each other by bowing, taking their palms together in a prayer-like gesture, and saying sabaidi. This is called the nop.
2. Do You Have Free Tables?
Once you are done greeting, you will find the receptionist and ask whether they have free tables or not. To do so, you can say ເຈົ້າມີໂຕະຟຣີບໍ?- Chao mi to fri bo. Although most cafes in Laos have a walk-in system where you can find your table yourself, during busy days or in well-of restaurants, you might have to ask the staff for a free table.
3. I Need A Table For…
Translation: ຂ້ອຍຕ້ອງການຕາຕະລາງສໍາລັບ …
If you want to be more specific, you can mention the number of people you need a table for by saying ຂ້ອຍຕ້ອງການຕາຕະລາງສໍາລັບ …- khony tongkan tatalangsoalab. This will help the staff to allot the right-sized table for you and your fellow beings.
Asking For Menu And Recommendations
Once you find a table, the next step is to look for the menu and ask for specific suggestions. You can do so by the following phrases.
1. Can I Get The Menu, Please?
Translation: ຂ້ອຍສາມາດເອົາເມນູໄດ້, ກະລຸນາ?
While most tables usually have a menu kept, it may be missing. So, to politely ask for the menu, you can ask ຂ້ອຍສາມາດເອົາເມນູໄດ້, ກະລຸນາ?- khony samadoao menu dai kaluna. This will signal the waitperson to bring you the menu.
2. Do You Have An English Menu?
If the menu is written entirely in the Laotian language and it is hard to figure out the dishes, you can ask for an English menu for convenience. Do that by asking ເຈົ້າມີເມນູພາສາອັງກິດບໍ່?- chao mi menu phasaangkid bo. Although there is a rare chance of a restaurant having an entirely Laotian menu, you never know when you will fall in need.
3. What Do You Recommend?
Once you start scrolling the menu, it is always best to ask for local recommendations. Since they know best, they can help you with the finest dish available. So, ask them by uttering ເຈົ້າແນະນຳອັນໃດ?- chao nae nam an dai. With their suggestions, you will taste the traditional dishes you might have missed otherwise.
Ordering Food And Drinks
Once you decide what you want, the following are the ways you can set your order.
1. I Would Like To Order
After you have decided what you want, you can call the waitperson and say ຂ້ອຍຢາກສັ່ງ- khonyyak sang. This will allow the person to take your order and note it down on the list. Sometimes, the server themself will come to you and ask, ຢາກສັ່ງບໍ່?- yak sang bo (Would like to order?), to which you can answer ແມ່ນແລ້ວ- aemnaelv (yes).
2. Do You Have…?
To ask about specific dishes and if they are available, you can say ເຈົ້າມີບໍ່…?- chao mi bo. This will help the waitperson inform you regarding your choice and downsize your options, reducing confusion.
3. I Would Like To Have…
To mention the items that you want to order, you can say ຂ້ອຍຢາກມີ…- khonyyak mi. It will allow the waitperson to note down the items and suggest if anything is missing or unavailable.
4. What Is This?
Surfing through a new cuisine, you might need to figure out what an item is. So, to order correctly and with awareness, you can ask the staff ນີ້ແມ່ນຫຍັງ?- ni aemn jang. Once they explain the dish to you, you can finalize your order without confusion.
5. Do you Serve Alcohol?
If you want any hard drinks or beer, you need to first ask if the restaurant serves alcohol. To do that, you can say ໃຫ້ບໍລິການເຫຼົ້າຂອງເຈົ້າບໍ?- haibolikan heoa khongchao bo. While most Laotian cafes have a beer menu, enquiring first will always help.
6. That Is All!
Once you have mentioned all the dishes you want and the waitperson has repeated your order list, you can say ຫມົດເທົ່ານີ້!- mod theoa ni to confirm the order. In case there is a mishap, you can utter, ບໍ່, ຂ້ອຍຕ້ອງການສັ່ງ …- bo khony tongkansang… (No, I Want To Order…).
Asking For Bill
Time for the bill has come? Here is a list of phrases to make things convenient for you!
1. The Bill, Please!
You can simpy say ບັນຊີລາຍການ, ກະລຸນາ!- bansi laikan kaluna to signal the staff that you are done with your meal. Sometimes, the bill will be provided even without asking for it. However, receiving the invoice after you are done is always more convenient, so you can use this phrase to make the staff aware.
2. Do You Accept Card?
You never know when you will run out of cash in Laos. So, to make a payment through a card and save your money for later purposes, you can ask the restaurant staff if they accept card payments by saying ເຈົ້າຍອມຮັບບັດບໍ?- chao nyomhab lousy bo. However, it is recommended that you carry enough cash as most Lao restaurants still don’t have online payment or card systems.
3. Thank You For Your Service
After you are done with everything, it is always polite to thank the staff for their service, and that’s the least you can do to appreciate their hard work. So, use the phrase ຂອບໃຈສຳລັບການບໍລິການຂອງເຈົ້າ- khobchai samlab kanbolikan khongchao and bring a smile on their face.
More Lao Words And Phrases To Practice
|Excuse me||ຂໍອະໄພ||kho a phai|
|Can I have a bottle of water?||ຂ້ອຍສາມາດມີຂວດນ້ໍາໄດ້ບໍ?||khony samadmi khuad noa daibo|
|Do you have hot water?||ເຈົ້າມີນໍ້າຮ້ອນບໍ່?||chao mi noahon bo|
|I don’t eat meat||ຂ້ອຍບໍ່ກິນຊີ້ນ||khonybo kinsin|
|Can I get a vegetarian menu?||ຂ້ອຍສາມາດຮັບເມນູຜັກໄດ້ບໍ?||khony samadhab menu phak daibo|
|Do you serve beef?||ເຈົ້າໃຫ້ບໍລິການຊີ້ນງົວບໍ?||chao haibolikan sinngua bo|
|The food is too spicy||ອາຫານເຜັດເກີນໄປ||ahan phed koenpai|
|Can I order again?||ຂ້ອຍສາມາດສັ່ງອີກເທື່ອຫນຶ່ງໄດ້ບໍ?||khony samad sang iktheuonung daibo|
|One more, please!||ອີກອັນໜຶ່ງ, ກະລຸນາ!||ik annung kaluna|
|The food is delicious||ອາຫານແມ່ນແຊບ||ahan aemn aesb|
|Thank you for the food||ຂອບໃຈສໍາລັບອາຫານ||khobchai soalab ahan|
|Do you have extra servings?||ເຈົ້າມີບໍລິການພິເສດບໍ?||chao mi bolikan phised bo|
|Can I make a reservation?||ຂ້ອຍສາມາດສັ່ງຈອງໄດ້ບໍ?||khony samad sang chong daibo|
|How long will it take?||ມັນຈະໃຊ້ເວລາດົນປານໃດ?||mancha saiuaela donpandai|
|I would like to reorder, please||ຂ້ອຍຕ້ອງການສັ່ງຄືນ, ກະລຸນາ||khony tongkan sang khun kaluna|
|Can you pack these for me?||ເຈົ້າສາມາດຫຸ້ມຫໍ່ເຫຼົ່ານີ້ໃຫ້ຂ້ອຍໄດ້ບໍ?||chao samad hum ho heoani haikhony daibo|
|Do you accept online payment?||ທ່ານຍອມຮັບການຊໍາລະເງິນອອນໄລນ໌ບໍ?||than nyomhab kan soa la ngoen nlain bo|
|I want more!||ຂ້ອຍຕ້ອງການເພີ່ມເຕີມ!||khony tongkan phoemtoem|
Whew! I know that was a lot of information to take in. But, once you get accustomed to all of these essential phrases, nothing can stop you from entering a native restaurant and enjoying the meal with an authentic experience. Moreover, learning these has improved your Lao language skills, which will surely help your fluency and allow you to engage with the locals and communicate efficiently.
If you want to learn more about such vocabulary lists and phrases, I have the best suggestions for you!
Learn Lao With Ling App
The Ling app is the best for beginner language learners in all dimensions. You will find everything here, from cultural facts to vocabulary lessons on food, hobbies, music, accommodation, etc. As past users have commented, one of the app’s best features is that native speakers personally record audio to help you pick up the correct pronunciation and accent. Moreover, the AI Chatbot feature of the app is already a bonus that lets you engage in interactive exercises, improving your communication and retention skills. So, if you want to continue learning Lao and become a pro in just a few months, download the Ling app from Appstore or Playstore now and start learning Lao today!