SEPTEMBER 2021: Due to COVID we have been unable to travel for more than 18 months, which means it’s been impossible to update our vegan travel guides. Therefore we cannot be sure if the below inclusions are still open, so please contact them directly to check. For up to date information, check out the excellent HappyCow, which you can find via the link at the bottom of this vegan guide.
Here’s our quick Vegan Guide To Laos, it’s quick for 2 reasons, firstly we only did a bit of a whilstlestop tour and secondly vegan options in Laos, outside the major cities of Vientiane and Luang Prabang, are a bit limited. It’s not particularly a ‘vegan foodie’ destination (if we’re honest, we found it sadly underwhelming) and even the buddhist monks eat meat. But the beautiful scenery and the historic UNESCO heritage town of Luang Prabang are some highlights that you won’t want to miss.
Non-vegan things to watch out for – soya milk is widely available throughout Laos (hooray say those of us that like to make our own travel friendly chia seed porridge to start the day) but sadly the Lactosoy brand has a stronghold on the market and the variety that we spotted everywhere (in the blue carton) has dairy milk in it (nooooooo!). The dairy-free version (in the red carton) was only spotted in Vientiane where you can also find rice milk and even almond milk (for a price in the expensive expat supermarket). Then there’s fish sauce, Laotians have their own variety of this called ‘padaek’ which can end up in your food if you aren’t careful.
Fried Spring Rolls
Get them on the street or in a restaurant; Laotian fried (yaw juen) spring rolls are made with a rice flour wrapper making them deliciously light and crispy. They’re dangerously moreish and are hard to walk past without grabbing a few to eat. Check they aren’t filled with any hidden meat then get snacking.
Vegan Food Quest favourite place to find a fried spring roll: on the streets of Luang Prabang.
Fresh Spring Rolls
The healthy alternative to it’s deep fried friend Jaw Juen, Yaw Dip, or fresh spring rolls are a great go to vegan dish found in loads of restaurants and on the street. The restaurant versions we ate were all pretty decent (if not a little boring in comparison to the herb filled Vietname version – sorry Laos! They make a great travel food too, we took a portion on the plane with us when we left and they lasted really well.
This is a common dish found at a Laotian meal and is an awesome way to get your daily dose of veg in one hit. It’s basically a plate of veg and a dip in the middle. We had this in a few different places who agreed to veganise the dip part for us and it was a bit hit and miss ranging from bland to relitively tasty.
If you fancy trying it out then the Vegan Food Quest best Jeow was eaten in Lao Kitchen in Vientiane.
People from Laos eat more sticky rice than any other nation on the planet. It’s served in little baskets or sometimes steamed in bamboo with red beans. It’s just rice so not really anything to get too excited about in our book but it does make a very filling accompaniment to a meal.
Vegan Food Quest favourite place for sticky rice? Everywhere sells it and it’s just sticky rice really so there’s no need for a ‘go to’ place!
Hands down the best dish we ate in Laos was a tofu Laab. It’s a popular meat or fish dish in Laos and eaten regularly so we were happy to find an excellent vegan version so we got to experience this famous Laotian food. Once we found a good version, we couldn’t stop eating it. Fried tofu chopped up with a zesty lime and soy dressing with caramelised shallots, fresh mint and crushed roasted rice gave the spicier Thai version a run for it’s money.
The Vegan Food Quest best place to get vegan laab in Laos? Lao Kitchen, Vientiane.
Wherever there were tourists in Laos, there baguette stalls – always with a vegan option we found. The bread is pretty good for Southeast Asia (where vegans can usually expect milk, butter and eggs to be included in the dough, making it off limits) and they make for a tasty, quick snack.
Vegan Food Quest go to place to get a good vegan baguette in Laos? ‘Baguette Corner’ in Luang Prabang – an area on the main street (Sisavangvong Road) where there are dozens of baguette stalls all in one place.
Street side buffets can be a great option for eating in Laos. Meat and fish is normally ordered from one place, with veggie side dishes (some of which may well be vegan if you ask) being collected from huge displays nearby. It’s a cheap way to get dinner too with prices being particularly reasonable for as much as you can fit in your bowl (which is a lot if you are as greedy as us).
The Vegan Food Quest favourite buffet spot? Luang Prabang’s all Vegan Buffet which sets up on Sisavangvong at around 4pm each night (also a great place to meet friendly people at the busy communal tables).
If you go to Laos and see these being cooked on the side of the street then you should definitely stop what you are dong right away and eat them. A miniature coconut milk, sugar and rice flour pancake, these accidentally vegan desserts are sold on the street, really cheap and awesomely tasty. They are more custardy than the Thai version but we liked the way they were still served in traditional banana leaves and cooked over hot coals.
Vegan Food Quest go to place for Khanom Krok? Luang Prabang – just head to the night market on Sisavangvong Road and you’ll find several sellers from about 4 pm onwards (until their batter runs out!).
Thai Style Curries
We came across Thai style food on a lot of restaurant menus and there were often dishes that could be adapted for us traveling vegans. Vegetable and tofu red carries seemed to be most popular and although they aren’t as flavoursome or spicy as those in Thailand, they were OK and made for a good meal.
Because of the French colonial influences in Laos, and the international communities that live in the more populated areas (Vientiane and Luang Prabang) there was always Western food to be found, some of which was even worth eating. When you have a craving for something other than more local fare, a good hummus wrap or a falafel sandwich can really get you through.
Vegan Food Quest favourite Western food came from 2 places; 1) Joma (a small local chain of coffee shops) where they have detailed ingredients lists and every vegan’s favourite – hummus – and 2) Noy’s Fruit Heaven in Vientiane who makes a fairly decent falafel.