Food in Laos is similar to northern Thai food, yet with its own unique twist. Rice is as popular here as in the rest of Asia, although in Laos sticky rice known as khao niaow is served instead of long grained rice. Sticky rice comes in bamboo containers and is eaten with your hands, usually dipped in a selection of spicy sauces.
The French influence in Laos can be found in the cuisine and baguettes filled with pâte known as khao jii pat-te are delicious at any time of the day, especially for breakfast served with kaafeh thung – rich and tasty Lao coffee. Lao coffee usually comes with a thick layer of condensed milk at the bottom, or black - kaafeh dam.
International food is widely available in tourist towns and in Vientiane, the country’s capital, where you will also find a great selection of gourmet French restaurants.
Here is a selection of popular Lao dishes to get your taste buds tingling.
Laap – the national dish, an extremely spicy salad made from minced meat, herbs, spices, lime juice and a LOT of chilli. This dish sometimes uses raw meat.
Tam maak hung – know as som tam in Thailand, this is fresh, spicy grated papaya salad, where the flavours are pounded with a mortar and pestle to combine them.
Foe – Vietnamese noodles, often served as a snack or at breakfast time.
Khai phaan – this Mekhong River weed is served in Luang Prabang as a delicious side dish.
Padeck – fish preserved with salt and stored for anything up to three years. Padeck is usually eaten with sticky rice.
The village can be reached easily by crossing the Mekong by boat from the town of Nakhon Phanom in Thailand and the village receives a large number of travelers making their way across the border. Many people gather on the banks of the river to eat and drink and for the good views of Thailand that can be seen.
Walking around Tha Kaek is a rewarding experience as surprises wait around every corner. Explore the network of narrow lanes and you will soon come across the large open market, where it is literally eat or be eaten. Almost every type of animal seems to be on the menu here including snakes, squirrels, bats and frogs.
A good way to explore this interesting area is to hire a bicycle or moped and simply cycle away. The roads are not too bad around Tha Khaek and you can follow route 13 to the east and then cycle back up and around, returning to Tha Kheak on route 12.
There are many things to see and do along the way. One good stopping point is the Tham Nong Pafa cave, also known as Buddha cave, or you can continue further along the trail and you will come to Aen Cave.Many people visit this are in order to explore Konglor Cave, where you can take a boat ride along the 5 mile river that flows through the cave.
Lush scenery surrounds Tha Khaek and as you cycle you will pass by paddy fields, dense jungle and fields full of rich brown or dark red earth.
If you need to cool down, pay a visit to Tha Falang, which is a swimming area in the river. Splash around here for a while before following the river to the small cave known as a Tham Xiengliab.
There are a good variety of restaurants located along the river when it’s time to eat. Another lively eating spot is at the market, and amongst the assortment of crispy fried wildlife you will also find more familiar treats such as pancakes and stuffed French baguettes.