Tasting Luang Prabang




Beyond the temples, a foodie paradise awaits
Text by Vincent Vichit-Vadakan

Luang Prabang is so packed with history, and so full of things to see and do, that it’s easy to overlook that the former royal capital is also a great foodie destination for traditional Lao food and eclectic offerings from around the world. Here are a few places that you may have missed.


The Teahouse Luangprabang is a perfect stop for anyone exploring the paper and weaving village. After exploring the crafts in Ban Xangkhong, stop here for refreshing Lao teas and coffees, including herbal teas from the house’s own garden. There are also tasty dishes like smoky roast eggplant, zippy papaya salad, plus a whole range of home baked goods. Visitors can pick up edible and non-edible souvenirs to take home or attend occasional
one-off events upstairs.


Sure, there is hardly anyone in Luang Prabang who hasn’t heard of Secret Pizza. And yes, the owners, an Italian-Lao couple, have been firing up the wood ovens in their garden for over a decade now. But there is still something a little undercover about this improbable pizzeria, tucked away in a residential neighborhood. Part of the allure is due to the very limited opening hours: 6 to 9 pm, Tuesdays and Fridays only. Pro tip: come about 8 pm to avoid the very long waits and remember to pre-order pasta specials the day before. There are no extra portions. And what about the pizza itself? It’s some of the best in town.


La Mama is a quirky once-a-week supper club. Quirky also describes the dinner’s charming host Monica, who assembles an eclectic table of locals, in-the-know visitors, and guests from her own guesthouse on her terrace from which you can enjoy some of the dreamiest sunset views over the Mekong. An inspired home cook, Monica covers the single shared table with dishes that strike her fancy on the day. You never know who your table mates are going to be, and that bit of serendipity is the best reason to go. Ask Monica about her homemade jams too.

Newcomer Lost in Baan became an instant hit when it opened at the end of last year. Its pan-Asian treats offer something for everyone, and its location just a few steps from the Night Market makes it a convenient choice smack dab in the middle of town. Beef in betel leaves and pandan-leaf chicken are excellent versions of staples from Vietnamese and Thai menus, while carrot lox on beetroot tinted blinis or a fusion-y soba carbonara are original house recipes that hit the spot. An Age of Enlightenment (tequila, absinthe, yuzu liqueur) from the bar may not leave you any wiser, but odds are you’ll be a fair bit happier.

Another recent arrival to the Luang Prabang dining scene, Tropical Mekong pulls off the unlikely feat of serving excellent Lao food as well as delicious pizza from its wood-burning oven. You want to be seated on the ground with low tables at street level or at dining tables closer to the river in time to catch a breath-taking sunset. Then tuck into your choice of thin-crust pizza or a dinner tray that includes Luang Prabang’s most-requested specialties, including or lam stew and khai phen river weed sheets with a spicy jeo bong dip. The same owner has taken over the Redbul Bar in town, taking the old backpacker haunt in a loungier direction, with drinks and the same mix of excellent local food and yummy wood oven pizza.

Artisan Bar is maybe the last thing you’d expect to find in the heart of the UNESCO Heritage zone: a spot for a serious drink with a splash of urban sophistication. When you push the door of this hidden bar, what you discover is a design that is sleek veering towards, but without actually tumbling into, the realm of kitsch. This 15-seat speakeasy requires no password (but phone ahead if you want to be assured of a seat). Don’t bother with a drinks menu: the team of earnest mixologists will talk you through your cocktail choices, though you could do worse than a spicy tamarind margarita, with its double whammy of tequila and fresh chili.

Whether you are a history buff, an adventurous foodie, or simply in search of a memorable dining experience, Luang Prabang has something special to offer. So, don’t forget to indulge your taste buds amidst the city’s many treasures.

Lao Airlines has frequent flights to Luang Prabang from Vientiane, Hanoi, and Chiang Mai

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