Are you looking for something other than meat in Laos? Well, it is not impossible, as many claim. While many people have stated it is pretty difficult to find meatless food options in Laos, that is not entirely true. Although it is a fact that the country’s culture and food customs include meat in almost all traditional dishes, vegetarian food is not completely absent. It can be a lack of research that most vegan options have been missed by many. But today, we will go through all meals that are suitable for a vegetarian in Laos.
Although Buddhism is against killing animals, people and monks are allowed to consume meat as long as they don’t see it killing or hear it being killed. Hence, even monks are offered meat items by locals and consumed by them comfortably.
In fact, it is the food culture of Laos to add a hefty amount of meat and different types of meat in almost all dishes that they consume regularly. However, as I mentioned, it is not impossible. We must not forget that Laos is a country that loves to eat herbs and vegetable dishes. So, there are no fewer options for meatless items either. If you want to know about them, continue reading!
Understanding Lao Food Culture
Before we step into the meatless vegetarian food lists, let us have a quick peek at the food culture of Laos and try to understand the diet of the local people.
Sticky Rice – Staple Food
We can never talk about Laos without talking about its sticky rice. If you have gone through our previous posts, you will by now be familiar that Lao people cannot live without sticky rice. They usually eat different meat and vegetable items along with the rice. They consume sticky rice for breakfast, lunch, and even dinner. You can already see their enthusiasm when it comes to this simple yet delicious snack.
Apart from sticky rice, Lao people are fond of minced meat items. Laap is the famous dish of Laos that no locals can live without. It is a meaty salad mixed with different herbs and vegetables. The meat can be mutton, chicken, beef, buff, or even fish. If you want to try out something meaty, this is a meal that you cannot skip. People from different corners of the world come to taste this amazing concoction.
When I say you are safe as a vegetarian in Laos, it is because of this reason. Apart from rice, noodles, and meat, Lao people use a hefty amount of vegetables and fresh herbs in their food items. They have many dishes that are purely made of loads of herbs and vegetables, consumed with a dipping sauce. This is the factor that makes Lao cuisine different from Thai cuisine. Thai people are less inclined towards adding fresh herbs to their items. Also, Lao cuisine frowns upon the sweet and sour concept of Thai cuisine.
Dishes For A Vegetarian In Laos
Now, let us come back to our main theme and help you enjoy some amazing vegetarian dishes in Laos. Below are some of the popular vegan-friendly items that you can try out!
Sticky Rice With Dipping Sauce
Even if you are a vegetarian, you will not miss the most loved dish of Laos. Khao Niew is the Laotian name for it and is a unique bliss in itself. Since it has no flavor as such, you can have it with different dipping sauces made of vegetables and spices. Tomatoes, peanuts, eggplants, etc., are some commonly used vegetables for dipping sauce.
Preparing sticky rice is quite easy. It requires only a small basket where you put the raw sticky rice and steam it. You can consume it with your hands like the locals and devour the sweetness of the sticky rice. However, make sure you mention to the chef that he does not add any fish sauce. Since it is quite commonly used, they might add it out of habit. Even without the dipping sauce, you will love the taste of the sticky rice and have fun eating it.
Spicy Green Papaya Salad – Tam Mak Hoong
Who said Laos has no options for vegan people? One of the most famous dishes of Laos is itself made with only green unripped papaya, cherry tomatoes, garlic cloves, palm sugar, steamed green beans, and some additional sweet vegetables. It is prepared by shredding the papaya into thin slices and mixing it with different spices and sauces. You can have it with or without the fish sauce.
Most people have it with sticky rice to enhance the flavor. You can also have it solo and enjoy its nutrients. It is a tasty yet a portion of healthy food that will not disturb your diet if you have a specific one.
Spring Rolls – Yaw Khao
Another very delicious dish and equally popular is spring rolls. From street stalls to five-star restaurants, you will find them everywhere. Fried spring rolls are made with a rice flour wrapper with a lot of vegetables inside, then fried and made crispy. They have a strong flavor, and most people love to have it with soy sauce. In fact, in every country of Southeast Asia, spring rolls are a go-to snack that you can grab whenever you go to work.
If you are not a fan of fried items, you can have healthy fresh spring rolls. They are the same thing, but the rice wrap is not deep-fried in oil. Some common ingredients found inside the roll are vermicelli noodles, mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, salt, a pinch of sugar, and gourd white pepper. Sometimes, you might want to check if there are any hidden meat items inside the wrap. Most Lao people prefer non-vegetarian ones.
Laotian Coconut Cakes – Khanom Krok
If you love pancakes, Laos has its unique version of pancakes for you on every street. Street food has a magic of its own, and if you pass by coconut cakes in Laos, do not miss out on it. These are pancakes made of coconut, rice flour, milk, and sugar. The sweetness of the coconut milk blended with sugar and rice flour brings out a magical taste that cannot be found in any restaurant. It is also very good for your stomach and is a light snack.
They are very cheap and around four to five pieces are served in a banana leaf for one serving. Since they are cooked over hot coals, you will find a nice taste in them that will melt in your mouth.
Lao Vegetarian Baguette
Apart from the French architecture, the French colonies have also made a huge influence on the food culture of Lao. You will easily find vegetarian baguette stalls in Laos, which are quite affordable. While locals prefer pork baguette, beef baguette, and chicken baguette, you can easily opt for the vegetarian Laos baguette and have it with vegetable soup. It is quite delicious and healthy at the same time. It is also a time saver. You can quickly grab it in the streets and have it in the comfort of your hotel room.
Cooked Vegetable Salad – Lao Soop Pak
Another easy and delicious meal that you can have in Laos is cooked or steamed vegetables, either as soup or salad. It is a dish with lots of cooked vegetables like cabbage, beans, lettuce, and fresh herbs with yummy sauces to dip them in. Sesame seeds are the most essential ingredients here. It might seem plain and simple, but that is the beauty of it. It is light, healthy, and equally tasty. The best part is it has zero chances of having any bit of fish sauce or other meat items. It is purely vegetables and you can have it with sides like lime juice, salt, tomato sauce, or even cheese and mayonnaise.
Thai Spicy And Sour Fish Soup – Tom Yum Soup
Don’t worry! Although the name says it is a fish soup, you will find the vegetarian version easily in Laos. It is usually made of cherry tomatoes, shrimp, kaffir, lime leaves, tom yum paste, fish sauce, and lemongrass. However, you can skip the non-vegetarian items and still taste the incredible flavor of the soup. Locals usually consume this hot and sour soup with rice, making it a brilliant side for sticky rice. You can also have it with your baguette or spring rolls.
It is a combination of Laotian cuisine and Thai cuisine, so you will find a hint of both delicacies. It is a nice refreshing item that you can have whenever you are hungry for a meal.
In the earlier section, I told you about how Laotian people are crazy about minced meat salad known as Laap. However, the good news is that you can have the same item with only vegetables and greens. You can have tofu laap with a combination of all kinds of vegetables with different sauces on top of it. You can add lettuce, beans, cabbage, tomatoes, onions, shallots, coriander, and all of your favorite vegan items.
Just make sure that when you order, you inform the chef that you want a vegetarian laap and not the one with stir-fried chopped meat pieces. It will bring good nutrition to your health and also give you a filling stomach. You can also order chili paste with it to make it spicy and more flavourful.
River Weed – Kaipen
Kaipen is another very unique item that you must try. It is made by using river weed or rock algae, mixing it with sesame seeds and vegetables. The strands of the river weed are dried into thin sheets and simmered in a spicy sauce. These are then cut into small squares and garnished with tamarind and ginger juice before serving. You can have it as a snack or also as a side with sticky rice to make it crunchy and more delicious.
More Popular Vegetarian Dishes
While the dishes mentioned above are the best on the list, there are a few more for you.
- Western Food – Hometown food made with a twist of Laotian cuisine
- Young Green chili – Jeow Mak Pet (Pre-cooked chilies and garlic mixed with chicken stock powder, salt, coriander leaves, and water)
- Watercress Salad – (Oilly to sweet salads made with a balance of sour, sweet, and salty flavors)
- Steamed Green Beans – Ahka Salad
Learn Lao With The Ling App
So, there you go! Now you can easily find vegetarian food in Laos and don’t have to sulk in the corner during your trip. You can devour the simple yet healthy and yummy items and make your tummy happy throughout the tour.
However, if you want to learn more about the culture and language of Laos, download the Ling app now from App Store or Play Store. It is one of the most revolutionary language learning apps that provide content on topics like sports, business, hobbies, etc., under the guidance of expert writers and native speakers. You can learn the Lao language as well as others, as Ling covers over 60+ foreign languages.
You also get audio and interactive lessons from the AI chatbot that the app features. It helps in improving communication skills and makes retention easy. So, what are you waiting for? If you want to explore more, download the Ling app right away and learn Lao!