This was the first place we ate in Luang Prabang. We went out looking for some breakfast soup and we found it at this little corner Vietnamese restaurant. It was a sidewalk affair with plastic chairs and a big boiling pot right out in the open.
Favorite Dish: Pho is a beef noodle soup popular in Vietnam and easy enough to find in many cities around Southeast Asia as the Vietnamese have spread all over the region. This was a tasty batch and though a bit pricey at 10,000 Kip ($1.25) per big bowl including tea, it was a nice familiar welcome in Luang Prabang. Though the town is hot during the day, it is quite cool in the morning and a hot bowl of soup is a perfect breakfast.
Sometimes you read about a place in Lonely Planet and you know it will never live up to its reputation. Many are overrun with backpacking versions of the pension dinner crowd, but sometimes they do give you a gem. This is one of them. It was full of locals the night we were there though there were some scattered members of the LP fraternity too. No other way you would find the place as it is on the outer edge of town. It has a pretty Spartan interior but the best place to sit was outside to enjoy the lively ambience. Locals seemed to love the place, perhaps as a special night out as it was not cheap. A big dose of laughter seemed to help everyone enjoy the already tasty food.
Favorite Dish: They had a pretty extensive menu for Laos but it seems that most come here for the Lao version of BBQ. The friendly owner brought out a metal type of hibachi and a plate full of various things to grill on it. Not only were there meats but also tasty greens and a nice broth that was poured over the mixture to help cook it. It was not only tasty but also fun making up your own meal at the table. It was pretty cheap though I could have had an entire one to myself and next time I will! The meal ran about 40,000 Kip or five dollars and we even had a beer with it. But as I said, it looks bigger than it is and a good eater could eat a whole mixed grill by himself.
The Night Market in Luang Prabang has become a bit of a tourist attraction but still retains much of the local color one looks for in such locations. There are long rows of tables where natives sell their own specialties like fried noodles, various cuts of meat and, being a river town, locally caught fish.
Favorite Dish: The fish is roasted on a stick and is sold by size. A decent one goes for around two dollars and you have to get your side dishes separately. It's all quite tasty and a real experience squeezing onto one of the little tables too!
I love trying the local foods as much as anyone but sometimes you either crave something like home or your poor stomach cannot keep much else down. We found ourselves in this latter position in Luang Prabang and Joma provided a nice quiet retreat to the Western world. D particularly like the sparkling clean toilets and both of us used them if we had a rushed call to nature while walking around town too.
Favorite Dish: Joma has baked goods but we both opted for eggs and some coffee like back home. It is not a cheap place for breakfast by local standards but if you are in need for a fix from home, give it a try. We spent 63,000 Kip (about six bucks) on a full breakfast for two.
One of the great pleasures of Luang Prabang is to sit along the river during the heat of the afternoon. You can grab a shady spot and enjoy a cheap beverage and some kind of local snack.
Favorite Dish: I love sugar cane drinks and these vendors grind the actual sugar cane to produce a naturally sweet concoction that is best served mixed with a fruit juice.
I had read about the famous watercress of Luang Prabang and the only place I could manage to get a salad of it for a reasonable price was this Lonely Planet entry. This is what happens to a local restaurant when LP gives it too much press. It was a bit pricey for the ambience which lacked the bustling nature of a local but was not nice enough for a backpacker hangout.
Favorite Dish: The salad was actually quite tasty though one is never sure how it is washed and not sure I would venture to try it again with the risk of getting sick. We also had some type of sandwich on a baguette as I remember the owner had to run out and get some ingredients for it! The whole meal was 48,000 Kip ($5).
.........and anything in between!
Great food at this little restaurant, which was conveniently also our accommodation. We enjoyed our breakfasts here from the limited included menu, but there was a large range of other delectable looking foods available for this meal.
Lunches of fresh French baguettes (which were not cooked here) or local dishes was also very good.
They had a great range of drinks, including European wines, and we especially enjoyed refreshing fruit shakes in the heat of the day.
My husband ordered the same curry meal every night - and they even offered to give him takeaway when we left on the boat!
Takeaway lunches were prepared for us when we left, which were thoughtfully prepared and packed, and good to the last crumb!
Whilst all the Lao standards are on offer here, along with a few concessions to Western palates, the speciality is the "Lao barbecue", very similar to a meal I had had in Thailand a few weeks before. As it was Xmas Day the first time I visited, I thought I would treat myself to a barbecue, although treat is hardly the right word, as my meal cost just over £2 (about $3 US). For those of you not familiar with the concept of the Southeast Asian barbecue, allow me to explain.
A metal brazier affair surrounded by a reservoir is put over a bucket of burning charcoal set in your table and you basically make a soup of barbecued meats, veg and glass noodles yourself, although I defy any one human being to eat the amount of food offered. You are served raw shrimp, squid, chicken, pork and beef accompanied by tomato, about three kinds of wild mushroom, the local watercress, pak choi, some sort of a flowering plant and Heaven knows what else. You barbecue the meats and seafood on the top of the brazier.
The photos give some idea I hope.
The idea then is to fill the reservoir from the "soup" which is really stock and add the noodles and vegetables to cook. You then season the whole affair with tamarind sauce and chopped garlic and transfer to your bowl. It was delicious and a suitable repast for the Christmas meal. I was on the point of asking the waiter to send my compliments to the chef, then I remembered it was me and it might have seemed conceited.
The service was attentive and very friendly so, as it was Christmas, I had a couple of cocktails although I rarely drink spirits. The lychee martini was particularly good.
There are many barbecue places in Luang Prabang but this one is highly recommended.
Update February 2013.
I was revisiting this tip today and found I had only attached one image due to internet limitations in Luang Prabang, so I have added a few more now. Isn't it amazing there is always something more to do on your VT pages? I should add that after I wrote this tip, I used to visit here regularly and became very friendly with the staff and the ownders family, some of whom are seen in one of the images. The two young ladies on the extreme left and right were two of the delightful waitresses there and both were studying at the local teacher training college, funding their studies by waitressing which seems to be a common practice here. After my efforts in Big Brother Mouse I used to drop in here for a coffee and invariably ended up giving impromptu English lessons. I really hope I did not hinder the poor girls studies too much.
Favorite Dish: The "Set 1" barbecue as detailed above.
Most of Luang Prabang shuts down relatively early. The bars will shut at 11:30 at the latest to allow tourists home before the midnight curfew (see seperate tip), and many restaurant will shut earlier than that. Allow me to share a real insiders tip with you. I am not suggesting you break curfew but I happened to live very close to this place and one of the nights I visited (New Years Eve) the curfew was lifted anyway.
This place really is a locals hangout and a very good way to eat like they do. In the several times I have visited I have only ever seen two other Westerners there. I have never worked out exactly how the menu works. I was there one night, quite late, and there was a full menu available yet another night, arriving much earlier, I was informed that there was only noodle soup available, albeit in a number of varieties. This appears to be the speciality of the house and it is remarkably tasty, although my personal favourite is the duck with steamed rice which is excellent.
Be aware though that if your tastebuds don't run to spicy food that this place caters for people who do and the food can be a bit spicy, especially if you add the condiments to the soup. If you want the food a little less fiery, ask for "bo pet" literally No spicy".
A word to the wise. If you really need a last beer before bed you can get one here if you eat, although don't say I told you so.
Favorite Dish: As above, the duck with steaqmed rice.
A great place to stop and smell the roses - and admire the view - along the river, there are plenty of little places to stop for a meal, an extra cup of morning Laos coffee or a refreshing fruitshake in the hotter part of the day. The views are beautiful, and could compete with almost anywhere!
Favorite Dish: The views!
You have to try roasted chicken in Laos. Besides fruit shake, I was addicted to roasted chicken as well. Luckily there is no bird flu at that time I travelled to Laos.
Roasted chicken in LP is more expensive than in Vientiane. One big drumstick on a bbq stick cost 10,000Kips. However, it is quite a big protion, so I have that for my dinner.
A nice experience when in LP is to have breakfast by the Mekong River Shore. There are many terraces there (by the boats piers) where you can have a fix breakfast of coffee, croissant, toast, fruit and juice for less than 2 dollars.
You can see the mighty Mekong river flow and all the long tail boats pass by...
At Sakkarine Road, just after you pass the Phousi Hill, you will find a piece of street with many nice terraces, souvenir shops and travel agencies.
I found the restaurant of the photo one of the most convenient, as the food was delicious and the price the lowest one. I can't say the name (there is no sign) but it was in front of the "Scandinavian Bakery", near the massage shop.
Favorite Dish: Any dish is soooo delicious!!
I never expected to find an scandinavian bakery in the middle of Laos, but there it was!! In fact, there is another one in Vientiane too...
This is a great place for breakfast, they have croissants, apple pie, banana pancakes... and real coffee with milx (expresso kind). They also have sandwiches and other western snacks for lunch, but they are not open for dinner.
This restaurant of the Villa Santi Hotel is a good choice if you want to try high standard lao food.
The restaurant is in the upper floor of the main building. If you reserve or come early you can choose one of the 6 tables out in the gallery, from where you can see streetlife out there.
Favorite Dish: Keng Phar (vegetable soup), Phat KinKay (chicken, ginger, coconut milk), Kao Lons mit (fried traditional vegetable), Nuat Sen Lone (steamed vermicelli), Salad Phar Nam (water cress salad)