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Wednesday
Oct072009

food blog: a day in vientiane

best restaurant in vientiane

It’s not fair to only have a day to eat in one country, but sometimes it helps you narrow down what’s really important. In Laos, the must-eat item in this instance was bread, because thanks to former French occupation, you can get it everywhere. For a literal bag of baguettes, the food stalls outside the Morning Market are the easiest and cheapest bet, but for something more famous and expensive, the Scandinavian Bakery or Café Croissant D’or offer pastries, rolls and cakes plus proper coffee. No locals go, but a higher-calorie brunch in Laos would be hard to find.

The Mekong River is where to head for lunch or dinner, especially if you’re not staying in Vientiane long. Along the riverside road, Thanon Fa Ngum, there’s a bunch of restaurants, including the PVO, which serves Vietnamese pho and incomprehensibly meaty pork baguettes. Further up-and down-river are more restaurants with the standard plastic chairs and wobbly tables you come to know and love in SEA. At any of these, expect to pay around 10000 kip for a large bottle of Beer Lao – something you MUST drink as much of as possible just because – and around 20000 kip for laab, 5000 for sticky rice and 30 000 for a fish dish. Anything fish-based at these places will have come directly from the Mekong, so it’s fresh, flavorsome and will only cost a few US dollars.

At the far end of Fa Ngum, just after it turns into a dirt road, is the mid-range Spirit House, which offers the full spread – fried breakfasts, laab, somtum, European sandwiches and lots of alcohol, including Beer Laos. Cocktails are cheaper in the afternoon, Wifi is free and you can sit right by the river or in the restaurant, which is especially nice if you have a significant other.

Finally, for street-foodies, there’s the ubiquitous cured pork sausage with chili, which comes wrapped in a banana leaf. It’s not something that will change your life, but because it’s available everywhere it’s extremely hard for the food-curious to resist.

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