Travelling abroad always opens the door to the question of local food. In some countries it is easy to find food that you enjoy, in others sometimes it can be more challenging. I spent a week in Shanghai once on a budget and I could have starved to death. The only food I found that even looked like food was in the top hotels and on my budget that meant eating every other day. The street food was appalling, the level of hygiene was medieval and the cruelty shameful. I don’t really want to eat a bullfrog, and certainly not one that has been despatched by throwing as hard as the vendor could on a dirty pavement, then scraped up and stuffed in a paper bag.
So here I was about to embark on a holiday to an Asia country that arguably wasn’t as developed as China, and I was to say the least a bit nervous. Laos is for the most part very rural and underdeveloped, but what of the capital, Vientiane. I was pleasantly surprised as soon as I arrived. It is a delightful little town, with broad sweeping boulevards, a throw back from the French I suppose.
I checked into my small, but thoroughly adequate, hotel and went out in search of adventure and food. It didn’t take me long. I came across a nice town square with about ten terraced restaurants on three of its sides. The first one I tried was traditional Laotian cuisine and it was delicious. I simply asked the waitress to recommend something, I said that I like fish and seafood so anything she suggested I would try. The meal was excellent, a chicken dish with lovely white rice and a couple of sauces.
On my first full day in Vientiane I went for a walk and found a local market. A woman was cooking spring rolls at a small stall in the street and they smelled really good. I order some and sat on a small plastic chair. They were fabulous, unrecognisable as the greasy things served in Chinese chippies back home. They tasty so fresh and not at all greasy. These were to become a daily part of my diet for the next week.
I tried, and again, really enjoyed the larb. This is a mixture of minced pork and herbs. It’s hot and spicy and they eat it with sticky rice. The rice looks a bit odd, it comes in a block wrapped in cling film, and you eat it by hand. It is really good and together with the larb, was delicious. Another really popular dish is papaya salad which again I enjoyed. The food wasn’t like anything I had eaten before. I loved it though.
For anyone preferring western options there are loads of alternatives. There are restaurants from different countries and on the streets they sell baguettes. I suppose the French influence left that idea behind. Vientiane is one of the easiest places I have been to, regarding the availability of good quality cheap food. Anyone thinking of visiting, should not worry in the slightest. For the more adventurous there is plenty of local great choices.