What’s for breakfast in Laos?

Posted on 15. Apr, 2012 by in Asia, Asia, Destination Tips, Destinations, For foodie travelers, Laos, Travel Tips

Unlike when we arrived in Thailand, we were entirely unfamiliar with Lao cuisine. Thai restaurants are a dime a dozen in Europe and the U.S., but the only thing we knew to expect about the food in the former French protectorate was that we would be eating a lot of rice.

That did turn out to be true, although in northern Laos where we spent our time, we ate mostly sticky rice – and that at least twice a day. Most of the dishes are very similar to Thai cuisine – red and green curries, vegetable stir fries, and even Pad Thai was on many menus. But the breakfasts in Laos were brand new to us – we had never heard of the dishes with names like cheaw makork or khao piak sen.

So we decided to just order and see what we got…

Our favorites

Lao Garden Breakfast

The Lao Garden Breakfast turned out to be a delicious, fluffy omelet with steamed vegetables on the side, served with a little container of steamed sticky rice (khao niao) and a delicious home-made tomato chili sauce for dipping the sticky rice.

lao breakfastWarm Lao Bread

Like you, we expected to see bread on the table after ordering this, but Warm Lao bread does not have much to do with the bread we know – it is completely made of rice. Sticky rice is hand-formed into a large, round inch-thick patty. The patty is then dipped in to a thick scrambled egg mixture, so that it comes packed in an omelet pocket. This is then pulled apart and dipped in the chili sauce. Not only is this cheap and filling, it is one of our absolute favorite Lao foods.

lao breakfastChew Makork

Hard boiled eggs, sliced into quarters, line the outside of a plate filled with sautéed vegetables in the center. On the side, you get your big serving of steaming hot sticky rice and the chili herb paste. You eat the eggs and veggies together, and, as always, ball up pieces of sticky rice with your fingers, dip into the chili and eat that with your fingers.

lao breakfastBaguette with condensed milk

Yes, you read that right. The French influence comes from 50 years during which Laos was a protectorate of France (1893 – 1954), so in addition to crumbling French colonial architecture in cities like Luang Prabang, the baguette still remains a daily staple in Laos. There are baguette stands everywhere, even in rural villages, but rather than a healthy helping of ‘fromage’, these baguettes come two ways. One is the $1 lunch/dinner option – piled high with chicken, ham, lettuce, cabbage, avocado, egg, even plastic cheese singles – and the other is the breakfast baguette, a truly Lao/French fusion food. Here you cut the baguette open, pour half a can of sweetened, thick condensed milk over it, and voila: A simple but delicious sweet breakfast baguette, best enjoyed with a cup of delicious Lao coffee, which also usually comes with three or four spoonfuls of the same condensed milk.

luang prabang night market baguette ladyOther Lao breakfast specialties

Noodle soup is probably the most popular breakfast in Laos, but as vegetarians, it was hard to find some that wasn’t made with chicken broth, so we didn’t eat much of these below…

Khao Piak Sen

Khao Piak Sen is the typical Lao noodle soup, made from rice noodles, and served for breakfast as well as for lunch and dinner. The soup usually comes with chicken or pork, but a veggie version can also be found in some places.

lao breakfast Kao Piak senKhao Soy Noodle Soup

Khao Soy is another type of noodle soup, this one is influenced by Burmese cuisine.  however, this one is influenced by the Burmese cuisine. Also widely spread throughout Northern Thailand, Khao Soy is made from rice noodles, is spicier than Khao Piak Sen and contains lots of spices and hunks of vegetables (shallots, garlic, onions, cilantro, tomatoes and chillies) along with either pork, duck or chicken.

Lao-Food-Khao-Soy

Lao Khao Soy (c) www.laovoices.com

Youtiao

Youtiao is also known as a ‘Chinese donut’ and one of the many items that made their way into Lao cuisine from China. It is usually served as a side for rice porridge (congee) or Khao Tom.

lao youtiao via wikimedia commonsWhich one of these would you want to try the most? Or have you been to Laos – which one was your favorite breakfast?

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23 Responses to “What’s for breakfast in Laos?”

  1. Megan

    15. Apr, 2012

    The khao soy looks a lot like pho, which is one of my favorite foods. I’m a vegetarian as well, and ‘chay’ was one of the first works I learned to recognize in Vietnamese. I had no idea what was in my food half the time, but at least I knew what wasn’t!
    Megan recently posted..Sexy Summer

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    • Dani

      17. Apr, 2012

      The Lao Khao Soy is actually pretty similar to Pho, so I think you’d like it, Megan :) I can’t wait to get to Vietnam – people are raving about the food there & I’m glad to hear that it’s not hard to find vegetarian dishes there.

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  2. Amanda @ Farsickness

    15. Apr, 2012

    I hadn’t heard much about Laos cuisine before but this all looks amazing! Especially sweetened condensed milk poured over bread :) Makes me even more excited for my travels there next year.
    Amanda @ Farsickness recently posted..Flashback Friday: Cherry Blossom Festivals

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    • Dani

      17. Apr, 2012

      It’s true – Lao cuisine isn’t very well known outside of Laos! We certainly had never heard of any of these dishes. The condensed milk on baguette sounded weird in the beginning, but it’s actually pretty good – you have to try it when you’re traveling next year, Amanda :)

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  3. Audrey | That Backpacker

    16. Apr, 2012

    These are making me so hungry! That looks like one delicious breakfast – especially the lao bread and the chew makork, mmmm! :D
    Audrey | That Backpacker recently posted..Where Old Men Come To Play

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    • Dani

      17. Apr, 2012

      Thanks Audrey – the Lao bread is sooooo good, and the chili sauce that comes with it is to die for! I have to try to make this at home!

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  4. Sabrina

    16. Apr, 2012

    A lot of these look more like lunch to me rather than breakfast :) They sound really good though! Based on your pictures I’d probably wanna try the “fake” break and the donut first. Yummy!
    Sabrina recently posted..Popular Drinks in Germany

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    • Dani

      17. Apr, 2012

      I agree – I’d eat all of them rather for lunch than for breakfast, but we got used to having rice for breakfast pretty fast and in the end, we enjoyed rice & veggies for breakfast more than pancakes or toast (the usual backpacker fare…)

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  5. Ayngelina

    16. Apr, 2012

    Everything looks so fresh and delicious!
    Ayngelina recently posted..The Pineapple Express

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    • Dani

      17. Apr, 2012

      … And everything was absolutely delicious! We’re still missing the warm Lao bread & would go back to Laos just for that :D

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  6. KN

    16. Apr, 2012

    The baguette with condensed milk sounds sinful! :D
    KN recently posted..Af: Karoline

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  7. Ekua

    18. Apr, 2012

    Yum! Nice overview… dishes that people eat for lunch and dinner are usually the focus of traveling and eating, but breakfasts are often fascinating too! Something I really missed after leaving SE Asia was noodles for breakfast. More cultures should adopt that :P
    Ekua recently posted..Follow Your Own Travel Bliss

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    • Dani

      18. Apr, 2012

      Thanks, Ekua! We still prefer rice to noodles but some of the noodle soups are incredibly delicious! We will definitely miss having rice for breakfast :)

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  8. Julia

    21. Apr, 2012

    Yum! Didn’t realise Laos had such tasty-looking dishes in its repertoire! Definitely back on my radar for the next couple of months now, as food is always one of my main motivators when travelling somewhere!
    Julia recently posted..Backpacking Asia: It’s A Love/Hate Kinda Thing

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    • Dani

      22. Apr, 2012

      Are you on your way to Laos, Julia? You have to try the breakfast there, it is SOOO good! Definitely our favorite breakfast in South East Asia, although the Nasi Lemak in Malaysia was also pretty good… love the food in SEA!!

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  9. Naomi

    21. Apr, 2012

    This made me SO hungry. Everything looks so delicious….though I could definitely pass on that condensed milk bread, haha!
    Naomi recently posted..elephants, orangutans and hornbills – oh my!: cruising on the kinabatangan

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    • Dani

      22. Apr, 2012

      Naomi – The condensed milk on baguette takes a few bites to get used to, but trust me: you will eventually start to like it ;-) The sticky rice bread with the super hot chili sauce also took a few bites to get used to but I loved how it woke me up because it was so HOT :D

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  10. TammyOnTheMove

    22. Apr, 2012

    These dishes look absolutely delicious and I am loving the photos. Is there much vegetarian food available in Laos? I find that in Cambodia for example you really have to look hard to find any and we often end up going to Western restaurants.

    Reply to this comment
    • Dani

      22. Apr, 2012

      Thanks Tammy! We have to admit that while it was easy to find vegetarian breakfast, it wasn’t always easy to find vegetarian lunch / dinner. Luckily, there seems to be an Indian restaurant in every town in Laos, so whenever we struggled to find something vegetarian, we went to the Indian restaurant because there’s always something for vegetarians there :) In the more touristy places you have plenty of vegetarian Western dishes of course – I think the only cuisine in South East Asia that is truly vegetarian-friendly is Thai.

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  11. Ivy @ Pathway to Asia

    13. Sep, 2012

    Just by looking at these awesome pictures makes my mouth water already! I think they are very delicious and at the same time nutritious since I’ve noticed that the dishes that you featured mainly contains vegetables.

    I bet people from Laos loves to eat vegetables. I was just wondering, among the favorite cuisines that you listed what is your most favorite of them all? :)

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  12. Vicky

    23. Mar, 2013

    Definitely looking forward to the Chew Makork for breakfast in laos! While traveling I miss hard boiled eggs so much and will happily have them with any other dishes as long as they’re available!
    Vicky recently posted..Temple Highlights in Bagan

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    • Dani

      24. Mar, 2013

      You have to let us know how you like it! The breakfast in Laos was seriously some of the best on our travels so far! About the hard-boiled eggs: can totally understand that! We started to hard-boil eggs in hostels and bring them with us – just such a good source of protein for us veggies and something savory we can add to the sweet breakfasts here in South America ;-)

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