If you research about vegetarian or vegan food in Laos, you’ll see that most people believe that the Southeast Asian country has little to offer in this regard. We don’t agree with that. In our opinion, the situation isn’t nearly as bad as it’s partially described. On the contrary, there are some great vegetarian and even vegan food options in Laos. And actually they’re cheap and you don’t even have to search for long. Especially in the markets there are quite a few choices. You don’t believe us? Well, then let’s take a closer look at the 15 best vegetarian/vegan dishes in Laos.
Khanom Krok is a dessert made of coconut milk, sugar and rice flour. It’s not only vegan but also very cheap and you won’t have any problem finding it. Khanom krok is often sold on the side of the streets. Especially in the markets you can be sure to find someone who sells it. If you’re in Laos this dessert is a must-try. In contrast to Thailand, it’s also customary that the dessert is served in banana leaves. This gives Khanom krok an even more exotic flair.
Okay, fruits are of course not a Lao specialty, after all they’re available in pretty much every country. Nevertheless, this is a good option that is 100% safe even for vegans. Not to forget that the selection of fresh and exotic fruits is really large. Have you ever tried guava, mangosteen, rambutan, longkong or star fruit? You definitely should! And if you’re brave enough you can also take a bite of the notorious durian. Probably you even like it.
Coconut ice cream
If you crave a dessert and don’t want to pay a lot, coconut ice cream should be your first choice. You can actually find the delicious ice cream everywhere on the street. However, the stalls that sell it are somewhat inconspicuous to an inexperienced eye, so it’s worth taking a closer look. Alternatively, you can simply go to the more touristy areas, where they use signs in English language.
You may be wondering what we’re referring to at cooked vegetables. Well, it’s a typical Laotian dish and quite simple. It consists of a plate full of different vegetables and a tasty dip in the middle. Although this dish usually is a great option for vegans, you should take a closer look at the dip first, since it may contain non-vegan ingredients.
Pak boong is a famous dish usually made of stir-fried morning glory and chillies. You can find it all over Southeast Asia. Pak boong is kind of vegan fast food and usually found at street stalls or in smaller restaurants. In principle you can order it without any hesitation. You only should be careful if you can’t eat spicy food. Some versions may be really hot. Especially if you’re outside the tourist regions.
Admittedly, this isn’t a fancy culinary specialty but if you want to try something new and are a vegetarian or vegan, you can’t go wrong with it. Sticky rice is made of glutinous rice. The name doesn’t come from gluten, since sticky rice doesn’t contain any of it. It’s called this way because of its glue-like stickiness. In addition to the usual version, you can also find fried sticky rice patties. However, vegans should be careful here, as there are Laotians who use egg while frying.
Tofu is widespread across Asia and also used in Laotian cuisine. The ingredient, also known as bean curd, is the meat substitute par excellence and found in many dishes. Tofu dishes are actually always a good choice for vegetarians or vegans. However, it’s important that you pay attention to the remaining ingredients, since the dishes could even contain meat in addition to the tofu.
The Lao baguettes are without a doubt something special and one of the few fusion dishes you can find in a wide variety of variations. Although many of the baguettes are filled with meat, eggs and similar ingredients, there are also completely vegan versions. Many places that sell baguettes have a large menu. So you can simply choose the variety that suits you best.
We’re sure that you’ve heard of the famous pad thai, since it’s one of the most popular dishes in Thailand among tourists. And even if this is not a typical vegetarian dish, we can assure that that many of our vegetarian friends love pad thai. The reason for this is simple. Even if pad thai is usually prepared with chicken or shrimp, you can easily ask for a vegetarian version. Only for vegans it could get a little more complicated, since egg is one of the main ingredients in pad thai. However, we think that pad thai tastes good without egg and meat too. Especially since egg isn’t used so often in the Lao pad thai. Generally, the pad thai is a little different in Laos. There are even people who say that it’s much better than the one in Thailand. We personally don’t want to make a decision here but can assure you that both versions are quite tasty.
Anyone who has traveled to South Asia and has never tried the delicious curries has done something wrong. Although the curries in Laos can’t keep up with those in Thailand or India, they’re still delicious. Many curries contain meat or fish but there are also those that are purely vegetarian and based on tofu or similar ingredients. In principle, vegans can also enjoy these curries. They should just watch out for eggs, although they’re rarely used. The same applies for milk or yogurt. Coconut milk is far more common.
Another tasty dessert made of coconut, coconut milk, rice flour, sugar and egg. In contrast to khanom krok, this dish isn’t suitable for vegans. Unless, of course, you find someone who doesn’t use eggs for the preparation. Vegetarians can eat khanom babin without hesitation. If you’re into sugary treats, this dessert is always a good choice.
Of course, bananas are fruits. Still, we think this dish deserves his own place in our list. You can find fried bananas in practically every market. They are among the most popular types of street food in Thailand and can also be found in Laos. Unlike fresh fruits, fried bananas aren’t nearly as healthy. Actually we don’t think they are healthy at all but at least they are delicious and vegan.
Salads (e. g. papaya salad)
You really can’t go wrong with a salad. However, there are of course salads that aren’t suitable for vegans or even vegetarians. That also applies for the famous papaya salad. One of the most popular versions of papaya salad, also known as tam som in Laos, is made with blue crabs. This version of course isn’t what you’re looking for if you’re vegetarian/vegan. But don’t worry, you can easily find papaya salad only made of fruits and vegetables.
Spring rolls come in all kinds of variations and as a vegetarian you should of course choose those that don’t contain meat. In contrast to the Asian restaurants in the west, spring rolls aren’t such widespread in Asia as you probably may think. Still, you shouldn’t have any problems finding them in Laos. At least in the bigger markets, there should be at least one vendor selling them.
We have to admit that we didn’t believe it at first. At least not until we were out in the evening in Luang Prabang and came across a vegan buffet. We tried it right away because the buffet offered a good selection and was also very cheap. However, after that we asked ourselves whether vegetarian and vegan buffets are a thing in Laos. So we started researching and found out that that’s actually the case. At least in the larger cities, you can assume that there are one or more such buffets. It’s self-explanatory that there’s no better place to go for vegetarians or vegans. Watch out for them!
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