Dining in Style: A Gourmand’s List of Luang Prabang
Requested by Lao Airways
Photos by Chanodom Vimuktananda
The phrase “La joie de vivre” beat its drum into my head repeatedly on this last trip to Laos and UNESCO’s World Heritage site, Luang Prabang. Literally translated to “the joy of life”, I heard this for the first time back in 2010 from a Laotian business owner of the restaurant Arisai in LP—where during the restaurant’s break he would sit in front of his restaurant enjoying his cigarettes, watching the world go by. He told me that “money is not the answer in life, but rather good food and a glass of wine is the needed prescription of la joie de vivre”. Though I missed this gentleman on my recent sponsored trip by Lao Airlines (his restaurant has been closed since), but his words were echoing in my mind, along with my heart. Therefore, I have chosen to focus my trip to the good foods found in Luang Prabang, for my joy of life. It took me four glourious days to nearly complete the delicious list. Let’s see what I got myself into.
There are plenty of restaurants along both sides of Sisavangvong Road, many of which are exceptionally good, and our next place to dine is Tangor. A “Tangor” is known as a hybrid fruit between a tangerine and a sweet orange. The food here is especially aromatic and refreshing, a surefire way to entice and arouse your taste buds. Personally, I felt like every dish contains some form or splash of tangerine in it, which is totally amazing!
Conceptually, Tangor nicely blends and balances French, Lao and Vietnamese tastes with a chic and modern presentation. And this is not with just the food, but Tangor also offers and extensive range of specialty cocktails and wines in a neat, colonial atmosphere.
Since the restaurant has extended hours of operations, you can easily enjoy lunch while sipping ice cold drinks or dinner paired with the perfect glass of wine all the while listening to great music.
Le Tangor: 63/6, Ban Xiengmouane, Rue Sisavangvong +856- (0)71 260 761
Open Daily: 11.00am- 10.00pm
High Tea at Ban Vat Sene
Apart from morning feast, Le Cafe Ban Vat Sene is now renovated upstairs and ready to welcome all tried guests who has been walking around the city, exhausted and quenching for some drinks and munchies. Not only cozy atmosphere but the air-conditioned room up stairs will comfort you from a long walk.
Tearoom at le Cafe Ban Vat Sene: Sisavangvong Road, Ban Vat Sene+856 71 252 482
Open daily: 6.00am- 10.00pm
Different authentic tastes of Laos
As I’ve been getting to know more about Lao cuisine, I have learned that there are a variety of tastes that can be found in the same dish, but ultimately depends on the region it is representing. For instance, Lab Luang Prabang is a mild dish, while Lab Houaphanh is more bold, with aromatic herbs and spice! Laoderm is a newer restaurant in Luang Prabang but definitely not new to the culinary world, as it has had a branch operating in the capital of Vientiane for decades.
The restaurant’s main ingredients are grown, selected and handpicked in Xiang Khwang and Sum Nuea. As a person with deep roots in rice culture, I loved the way the restaurant has many choices of sticky rice, each of which is explained in the menu. When it comes to food, Laoderm employs the concept of “choosing the best dishes from differing regions, while keeping them original”.
You must try the Oh Lam, a thick and rich Luang Prabang Vegetable stew. For the healthy-centrics out there, give the light and tasty Kiew Pla Daeg (a finely minced pork with fermented fish and herbs wrapped with lettuce and other vegetables) a shot!
Also, don’t miss the local desserts such as banana or pumpkin in coconut milk or Naep Sali (a local wheat which has been steamed and pounded out)
Laoderm: Sisavangvong Road, Ban Vat Sene +856- (0)21 255 283
Open Daily: 8.00am- 10.00pm
Some Classic Restaurants in Luang Phrabang
A place that everyone who visits Luang Prabang will eventually spend an evening enjoying fine gourmet foods. For me, I stop by every visit and have a nice Buffalo Beurre Noire steak, especially during Christmas time! But remember to make reservations during long holidays, as it is often booked solid!
You’ll find tasty authentic Laos cuisine served all day long at this local favorite! You’ll be served well and this long running restaurant that has only been gaining popularity among tourists and Laos’ alike! I always end up having a great time here with friends for lunch or dinner—sometimes both in the same day! All the food here is completely MSG-free and also boasts a spotless kitchen. Again, this place can get completely packed during long holidays and festivals!
If you continue walking towards Xiangthong Temple, on the way you’re sure to see an antique car parked out front of the Three Nagas Hotel. The 3 Nagas provides guests with great Lao food in your choice of atmosphere: either sitting in the garden or in the gallery on the other side of the road. Trust me, both are winners!
For nearly ten years of traveling to and through Luang Prabang from Chiang Mai, but Utopia has been one of the constants that have withstood the test of time. I’m happy to report that it is still up and running, still serving good food and wine, and still dishing up those great late night vibes we find ourselves looking for some nights out of the week, travel or no travel.
If you would like to try a more serene and delicate fine dining on Laoatian cuisine in Luang Prabang, topped off in a beautiful structure with equally beautiful settings, Tamnak Lao is just the ideal place! Most of the food here is Westerner friendly.
Pizza Luang Prabang
Obviously reputable for its pizzas in the traveling world and the local psyche, Luang Prabang Pizza is a pleasurable mix of Western and Laos tastes. They also provide guests with great Thai food as well—the owner is Thai and knows how to represent! Good place to sit and rest after perusing the market on Walking Street or relaxing for just the namesake of it.