The Flaming Vegan

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Vegan in Laos
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Vegan in Laos

The Lao cuisine is originally influenced by the Northern part of China. But there are also some other influences. On the one hand the Thai kitchen is influencing the Lao cuisine and on the other hand Cambodia influencing the cuisine in Laos. The base of Lao food is sticky rice. Usually it comes with meat or fish. The people eat it with their hands.  Some dishes like Green Papaya Salad are looking vegan. Sadly, for the dressing fish sauce is used. That's not a big problem.

The problem is the language barrier like in many countries in South East Asia, too. Laos is a poor country after years of war isolation. Therefore, the people are not well educated. That means English speaking people are rare. Tourism is one of the most important economies in Laos now. The country and its beautiful natural environment are definitively worth to visit.

Life begins outside of the comfort zone. That implies that you should be prepared when you are going to Laos. If you are going by bus from one destination to another and lunch is included on the journey, you should be aware that all meals are pre-cooked. Unfortunately they have just vegetarian and meat dishes. That means you have no choice to tell the staff what you want to eat or even what you won't. I often showed my vegan passport and hoped that they will prepare a fresh dish for me. But there was no way. So you should buy some nuts or fresh fruit in advance. Just in case you don´t want to travel hungry.

Another experience which I made was the famous and tasty rice noodle soup. I thought it´s a dream to eat vegan street food under $1 because the ingredients of the soup are only rice noodles, vegetables and a bit of Tofu. When I ordered the vegetarian noddle soup a second time in a restaurant I discovered some very little pieces of chicken in my soup. In this moment I realized that they cook the "vegetarian" soup together with the chicken soup. But there is also some good news. When you go to Luang Prabang you can eat as much as you want at the night market. Nearly everything is vegan and you pay for a full plate only around $1. There you can ask for vegan food because the owner speaks a bit English.

When I arrived in Vang Vieng I discovered the vegetarian/vegan restaurant "VegeTables". Actually I looked for a hostel but I was really surprised to see the word `vegan´. So I studied the menu. It has regional dishes and western dishes. I eat there two times. I enjoyed both times and spoke with the owner about a vegan diet. He said that a Chinese teacher told him that it´s healthier to life vegetarian. Of course I was surprised that the people who believe in Buddhism don´t know that Buddha didn´t eat meat.

But I want to tell you about the meals I had. At my first visit I enjoyed Fallafel with salad and Hummus. It was delicious. At my second time I had the eggplant burger. - It was fantastic as well. To be honest the burger was better than the Fallafel because the Hummus was a bit frozen inside. For me it´s okay when the food don´t have the Western standard because we should appreciate that the food is imported. Sadly the service staff in the restaurant is lazy but all in all the food is delicious! I was really glad to find this restaurant after my hard luck.

Further to the south it is getting easier to enjoy and the get vegan food. My last stop in Laos was Dondet, one of the Four Thousand Islands. There it was possible to order some vegan burgers or pumpkin soup in the restaurants without problems. You should know that this island is a really touristic place.

I also need to mention that it is possible to order a vegetarian curry or steamed vegetable with spicy sauce and sticky rice in nearly every restaurant in Laos. These two dishes are vegan, tasty and light. If you want to order dishes with vegetables be aware fish sauce is very often used. Therefore you should order the meal with soy sauce. For example also fried rice or fried noodle is made with fish sauce.

But again to biggest problem are the food stalls during excursions and journeys.

By now it should be clear why it is not that easy to be vegan in Laos. If you plan to going to Laos, I would strongly suggest learning the right phrases in the language, especially the phrase for: "No fish and no oyster sauce, please".


More about eating, curry, travel, asia, laos, food, vegan
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