hen talking about Southeast Asia, everybody seems to be curious about the famous food. We have extensively reported on our culinary pursuits in Cambodia (read about it here). In this blog you will find a little bit of text and explanation on our Thai and Laotian food experiences, but we will mainly rely on our photos to make you really hungry.
Laotian Laap & co.
We will whet your appetite with some of our Laotian favourites.
Everywhere in Laos you have some pretty good food, but in Luang Prabang you have a typical Northern Laos cuisine that is simply delicious. Fried mekong river-weed with a dried buffalo and chilli dip, Luang Prabang watercress, and the local stew ‘Or Lam’.
Undoubtably Laos’ most famous dish is sticky rice, with purple or white rice, mostly served in a small reed basket and rolled into small rice balls during your meal to dunk into the accompanying dishes. For our road travels by bus, we always buy the portable variety: Bamboo rice. A steamed stalk of bamboo filled with purple sticky rice mixed with coconut gratings. Easy to take away and a great snack. Just peal the exterior and tuck in.
In Luang Namtha we always went for dinner on the night market where we tried out a large variety of local foods. If there are a lot of locals and relatively few tourists, we have a winner and we slide onto the little creaky wooden benches and the pastel coloured undersized plastic stools.
On this night market there was a clear winner. A tiny stall with one table filled with baskets and pots of ingredients and three small benches for the customers around it. Behind the little table there was a small open fire with a big cast iron pan on which they made a sort of rice dough pancake. Which was subsequently cut into smaller pieces and rolled into a a rice roll with unknown contents. This rice rolls are covered with a generous sprinkling of all the fresh ingredients stalled out on the table, a scoop of this a spoon of that and part of the ingredients are mixed into an accompanying sweet and sour sauce with nuts and dried onions. Amazing!! The two other pre-prepared dishes they serve, are also extremely popular with the locals and justly so. One is a cold rice noodle dish with a spicy minced meat sauce, the other one a rice jelly type delicious goo of unknown consistency steamed in banana leaves which is almost always sold out straight after opening.
Another favourite of ours is Laotian Laap, a fresh meaty salad, which you can also eat to your hearts content in Brussels Indochine. We’ve already written a blog about this little restaurant, read all about it here.
Whenever you head for Thailand, people seem to be inclined to wax poetic about Thai food. However, the reality turned out to be less grand. We usually eat from street stalls and tiny shops but that turned out to be trickier than expected in Thailand. There isn’t a country where we had more stomach issues than here. Maybe we are getting a bit careless (e.g. ordering pickled crab som tam), but still in general the quality of street food failed to impress us against all expectations. However, as soon as we started to be a bit more selective about what we gobbled down and where, our experiences started to get better.
We haven’t visited every corner of Thailand, but we can already report on the places we did visit. In the North of Thailand the curries are definitely different from what we eat in European Thai restaurants. Not the typical curry-coconut-soup but more stew-like. Maarten’s clear favourite Northern Thai food was Khao Soi, a curry noodle soup with meat and crispy noodles to finish it off.
In Chiang Mai we had our best food at the NAP Festival (Read more about this festival here), including a delicious Thai rice bun burger created by the local hipster haven Mixology. In both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai we thought that the food served to the tourist masses on the famous night markets were very sub-standard. In Bangkok we discovered our favourites on Chatuchak weekend market a.o. red & green curries and kanom jeen by Prik Yuak/Green Chilli, freshly squeezed orange juice by Louk Som and crispy sesame chicken by Din Pao (see our BKK blog here). We are also big fans of som tam (green papaya salad) which you can safely eat a Hai Som Tam Convent or Som Tam Nua, but also in Brussels in our favourite Thai Talks (read al about this here). But we will let our photos below of a.o. our favourite curries and som tams speak for themselves.