I have been to Laos before, but back in 2007, I was a scared and inexperienced traveller, loathe to try new things and Laos was such a poor, undeveloped, untouristed country that it made me even more afraid of trying any interesting food here in Laos. Thus, as a (truth be told) slightly less scared (I’m a naturally high-strung person) but vastly more experienced traveller, as I rediscover Laos, I am discovering delicious Laos food for the very first time. Imagine everything that is good about Thai food and everything that is good about Vietnamese food, then combine it into the same food culture and sprinkle in a French influence here and there and bam! you’ve got Lao food. For reals.
On my first night in Vientiane, I set out to find some food. Maybe it was the heat or maybe it was my Bangkok airport tradition of devouring a Whopper before setting out for places more remote than Thailand, but I wasn’t especially hungry. I was just on the hunt for food because, hey, eating is kind of a hobby for me. I didn’t get far from my guesthouse before I passed by a cute little street vendor busily making little packages with sesame leaves and some type of filling. I stood there and watched for awhile, so she offered that I could buy some if I wanted. My natural inclination was to say “No thanks” because I was on my way to a restaurant I wanted to try, but then I remembered that I am making a concerted effort to be much less scared about trying new foods, so I thought, “Ah, what the hell!” and bought a few little “packages” from her and started to go on my way. They were SO delicious that I had to turn right back around and buy a few more packages from her.
I don’t know what these are really called. I asked the vendor and she told me they are “Lao”. I’m not sure if that’s really what they are called or if she misunderstood my question. Regardless, they are delightful little packages with a minty peanuty lime-y mixture and some sticky rice wrapped in either a sesame leaf package or a normal lettuce package. Something in the mix (aside from the peanuts) was a little bit crunchy, but definitely a delightful crunchy. And best of all, this whole tray full of these packages cost only 5000 kip, which is about the equivalent of $0.63 USD.