VIDEO: Eating Lao Cuisine for lunch at Tamarind

To satisfy our craving for Lao food we headed over to the ‘ever popular’ Tamarind restaurant for lunch where we sampled traditional Lao cuisine in a relaxed setting nearby the Nam Khan river in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Lao dipping sauces including aubergine and tomato at Tamarind in Luang Prabang, Laos

Introduction:

Having made Thailand our base for several months, we were curious to see how Lao cuisine would compare with its ‘spicy’ and ‘sweet’ Thai counterpart.

After sampling Lao food at several different restaurants we realized a few key differences:

Firstly, it’s not nearly as sweet as Thai food. Coconut milk and sugar are used sparingly.

Secondly, Lao food makes more usage of herbs and natural leafy ingredients. Even meat dishes tended to be infused with copious amounts of spices and herbs.

Overall, some of our favorite Lao dishes included as follows:

Mok Pa: similar to Khmer Amok (aside from not containing coconut milk) this herb infused steamed fish is prepared in a banana leaf and is as tender as can be!

Khao Gam: how could I possible not include a dessert here? Khao Gam, is purple sticky rice with coconut milk, which is very similar to Thai sticky rice with mangoes.

Buffalo Jerky: this sweet jerky was some of the most delicious ‘jerky’ I’ve ever tasted before in my entire life. Having grown up on Vancouver Island and sampling many kinds of game meat (in the form of jerky) I can honestly say that Lao water buffalo jerky trumps them all.

Sticky rice to go along with all of of our Lao finger food at Tamarind in Luang Prabang, Laos

Video Transcript:

For lunch today we are eating at one of our favorite restaurants in Luang Prabang – it’s called Tamarind. It focuses on Lao food, so we’re going to be showing you some traditional dishes.

This over here is called Nam Mak Kham and it is a Tamarind cooler and you get a nice little bamboo straw and it is a really sweet and sour drink. It is refreshing but a little tart. I really like it. It’s so good!

Next up we have our dipping platter. This over here is coriander pickle, next we have an eggplant dip and tomato dip. We have a paste made from buffalo skin, we have some seaweed chips and then some vegetables that we can eat with the sauce. Let’s dig in. That all goes together of course with our sticky rice.

Lao buffalo sausage and Lao buffalo jerky for lunch at Tamarind in Luang Prabang, Laos

Sam is going to demonstrate for us. This is how you eat it. You just kind of put together a little ball like that and then you can pick a different dip. I’ll try the buffalo sauce here. You put it together just like that and you pop it in your mouth. Delicious! Is it a bit spicy? Oh yeah! This one is really spicy.

Finger food! Finger food! That is a huge ball. Little ball. That is not little. Okay, I will go with the aubergine. She has got her happy face on. It is so good. It is not just aubergine. They’ve added spices – there is coriander, onions – there is just an explosion of flavors.

This is the second plate we’ve ordered. Again, here we have a vegetable pickle, this is a pork salad that also has banana flowers, we have a pork sausage and here is some buffalo jerky – Sam’s favorite. Oh, yeah! Over here we have some little lettuce rolls that are stuffed with different dips, different sauces, so we’ll be trying those.

Steamed 'Mok Pa' fish for lunch at Tamarind in Luang Prabang, Laos

Buffalo jerky time! I’ve broken off a little piece of this buffalo jerky and this is my favorite. Chewy, right? Yeah, it is very chewy like any kind of jerky but this is probably the sweetest jerky I’ve ever had. I can’t remember ever tasting anything quite this sweet in jerky form.

You have this lettuce leafy roll over here. I taste lemongrass and something sweet like a yam almost but I’m really not sure what it is. It could be some local thing.

We’ve ordered so much food we almost forgot about this next dish. It is time for me to do the honors. I’m going to unveil our steamed fish, which comes wrapped in a banana leaf. It is called Mok Pa. Let’s see what is in here. It’s like opening a present. I know, it’s like Christmas on a plate. Oh, Wow! There it is. You can see the steam coming off of it. It is going to be good. It comes with a side of vegetables, so let’s not forget about those.

Time for a taste test. First bite! Wow! This is cooked in a dill and basil sauce. It just melts in your mouth. It is so soft and so flavorful. It is delicious!

Now for dessert we are having something that is called Khao Gam. It is purple sticky rice that has been cooked in coconut milk and it also has banana and sesame seeds on top. Down here! It looks amazing! If that weren’t enough, we get a little shot of Tamarind sauce which we can pour over top.

I’m going to try it the natural way without the tamarind sauce first. It is so fragrant. Nice and sweet? Very sweet. You can definitely taste the coconut and it is a nice sticky rice with a bit of a nutty texture. I like it.

Lao purple sticky rice with banana slices for dessert at Tamarind in Luang Prabang, Laos

Let’s try this with some tamarind sauce and a big chunk of banana. Oh my, it is so good. The tamarind gives it a kick and a bit of spice. It is still really sweet.

That splendid feast came to just over $18 USD, 151,000 Kip which we think was excellent value. It is a bit of a gourmet type of restaurant. It is right by the river. You’ve got awesome views from here.

Eating traditional Lao cuisine for lunch at Tamarind in Luang Prabang

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam @ Round the World we go February 18, 2014 at 12:27 pm

How tasty does that look! Excellent value too.. I cant explain how envious I am, I cannot wait to travel!

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Samuel Jeffery February 19, 2014 at 2:13 am

Thanks Adam!

It is amazing food. It’ll be awesome when you hit the road soon :)

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Ruann - Solo Travel Uncut February 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm

Buffalo skin – my god. Haha, I love strange sounding dishes like this. Making my way to Laos in June this year and can’t wait to try out the cuisine, never been a full out foodie, but Asia has taught me well. cheers man!

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Samuel Jeffery February 19, 2014 at 2:14 am

Thanks Ruann!

Indeed, traveling and living around Asia has made me more adventurous with my taste buds ;)

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Catherine February 18, 2014 at 2:16 pm

The food sounds amazing! Have not tried Thai or Lao cuisine before, but Lao sounds like it would be more up my street.

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Samuel Jeffery February 19, 2014 at 2:15 am

Thanks Catherine!

I think a lot of people would enjoy Lao more than Thai but it is hard to find overseas :)

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Barbara Weibel February 18, 2014 at 5:32 pm

I loved Lao food so much so that I took a cooking class in Vientiane! This made me yearn to return to Luang Prabang

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Samuel Jeffery February 19, 2014 at 2:16 am

That’s awesome Barbara! We took a cooking class in Luang Prabang, as well, and loved it!

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Mike February 18, 2014 at 6:30 pm

I’m usually not much of an eggplant fan but Audrey made that dip look and sound delicious. That Mok Pa looked amazing! As long as there were no bones in it I love to try that. And I’m a hug jerky fan so send me some of that buffalo treat please, Samuel! :)

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Samuel Jeffery February 19, 2014 at 2:17 am

Thanks Mike!

The Mok Pa and Buffalo jerky were my personal favorites. As a jerky fan you would have loved the Lao version – it’s more sweet and tender than most!

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Carmen February 19, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Yum… it looks so delicious. I can’t wait to travel Asia next year – the food there is possibly the best in the world!

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Samuel Jeffery February 20, 2014 at 3:11 am

Thanks Carmen! I agree with you – hard to top the diversity of Asian cuisine :)

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Mike (Nomadic Texan) February 20, 2014 at 2:32 am

Samuel,
The food looks perfectly delicious. I especially am interested in trying the Buffalo jerky on my first trip. Can’t wait. Y’all be careful out there and keep up the great work!!!
Mike

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Samuel Jeffery February 20, 2014 at 3:06 am

Thanks Mike!

If you’re a big jerky fan you’ll absolute love the Laos water buffalo jerky!

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Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren February 20, 2014 at 8:01 am

I love your videos but especially the foodie ones!! I’m starving now.

Happy travels :)

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Samuel Jeffery February 21, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Thanks Lauren!

It’s dangerous to watch food videos on an empty stomach ;)

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Banker in the Sun February 20, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Mmmmm….buffalo….first had the jerky-kind in Nepal then again in Laos, and it’s just so good! The best thing I ate in Laos was chicken fried rice that was wrapped and had been cooked in banana leaves…super simple but absolutely delicious, especially after a 7-km trek through the mountains outside LP. Thanks for sharing and glad you’re enjoying Laos!

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Samuel Jeffery February 21, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Cool to hear about your jerky tasting in Nepal and Laos. I never did get to try that chicken fried rice in cooked banana leaves – that sounds amazing! :)

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Sherry February 21, 2014 at 1:21 am

Asian food all have similar basic ingredients, which I absolutely love. One of the first things I do when I visit the continent is eat. That’s like my biggest motivation to travel that way. Haven’t specifically tried Lao food, but I’ve tried Cambodian food, which I assume would be very similar. Lucky you guys!

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Samuel Jeffery February 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Thanks Sherry!

Khmer food is wonderful. My favorite is Amok which is kind of similar to Laos Mok Pa :)

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Renuka February 21, 2014 at 11:24 am

Wow, the Lao cuisine is making me hungry! Incredible food. Thanks for the yummy insights.

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Samuel Jeffery February 21, 2014 at 3:13 pm

Thanks Renuka!

I’m missing it these days (having just left last week).

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Ivana February 21, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Great assortment! We were a bit unlucky last time in Laos, because many times the food was just so sweet I couldn’t swallow it :D I guess we can also call ourselves “baguette eaters” of 2014 after having been in Laos :)
Take care and have wonderful time in Malaysia!

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Samuel Jeffery February 21, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Thanks Ivana,

Laos certainly has nice baguettes :)

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Tourist in Romania February 22, 2014 at 5:40 pm

Oh, everythings looks so so delicious! Great post!

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Samuel Jeffery February 27, 2014 at 7:17 am

Thank you! It truly was delicious :)

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Mary @ Green Global Travel February 25, 2014 at 2:50 am

The Lao cuisine looks delicious! Thanks for sharing the photos and video. :-)

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Samuel Jeffery February 27, 2014 at 7:13 am

Thanks Mary!

It’s a very under-rated cuisine; hopefully, it will catch on more abroad in years to come :)

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