Some travelers wouldn’t even think about eating street food while traveling overseas but I salivate at the prospect. In Bangkok, I snack throughout the day from vendors that line the major avenues and in Pokhara, Nepal I patronize steel food carts that prepare everything from Tibetan momos (similar to Chinese dumplings or pot stickers) to Indian chat, a casserole of salty/spicy beans and potatoes topped with yogurt sauce. Not only is street food usually delicious, the price is cheap beyond reason.
Since Laos is one of the poorest nations in the world I had expected to eat on a budget but in Luang Prabang the price of restaurant food was surprisingly high. Instead, I went in search of street food but found none, a puzzling situation in Southeast Asia. It took me a few days but I finally solved the riddle. Every evening, the main street of Luang Prabang is closed off to traffic from 6 to 11 p.m. for hundreds of handicraft merchants who sell their wares from blankets spread beneath portable canopy tents. On the far south end of the night market, tucked into a tiny alley that runs perpendicular to the main road, scores of food vendors line both sides of the narrow lane, leaving barely enough room for two people to pass.
I pushed my way through the crowd and ogled tables heaped with Lao delicacies, nearly paralyzed by the choices. At a booth stacked with gleaming red tomatoes and giant cucumbers a woman shaved green papayas and chopped chillies for Som Tam, the famous spicy salad found all over SE Asia. On the opposite site a hefty woman hacked a roasted pig’s head to pieces with a steel-edged cleaver that glinted deadly yellow in the overhead lights. Vendors competed with cries of, “Buffet, all you can eat,” bawled out in barely understandable English. At a booth that specialized in vegetarian food I loaded a plate for less than $5 U.S.
The next night I was back, this time for what quickly became my all-time favorite Lao food, veggie spring rolls wrapped in rice paper and then deep fried to a scrumptious, melt-in-your-mouth crispy golden brown. The cost for six? Less than $3. Juicy mango slices with chilli powder; whole fish on a stick, grilled and encrusted with rock salt; sesame-embedded dried seaweed – I tried it all and then paid homage to the gods of the steel gut that protect me from ever getting sick.
9 thoughts on “Sucker for Street Food”
I have ate little balls made of dough in Laos, they where so delicious and I wanna try that at home, but I don’t have the recipe and I couldn’t find it on internet. You have to fried that in oil. Do someone know what it is?
I just love the photo of the coloured hair clips – that’s really special. (And I agree with you, street food should be relished, not ignored!) Hm, relish, mm…disappears into a foodie daydream…
Yeah…but your fish tacos are awesome. Made my mouth water just reading
your comment 🙂
This made me hungry. All we have are fish tacos… Not so interesting!
There is rarely a chance of gastrointestinal armageddon. In my many times here, I’ve only gotten sick from restaurants, never from a street stall. Fact. (Also, yes, I may just be trying to re-brainwash you in the food department, but Ms. Donut she speaks the truth about the street food)
That all looks incredibly delicious! I love the contrast in experiences between this post and your luxury hotel stay. Life is so full of all sorts of experiences (both travel and others!) and they are all valid and to be enjoyed and, well, EXPERIENCED!
Ah, the Thailand street food thing. One of the biggest draws of the place, for me. I have been thoroughly brainwashed (willingly, and justifiably) by @legalnomads and @ShannonRTW:disqus regarding the street food scene. It’s the food equivalent of Toys-R-Us for adults. To not try the street food in Thailand is to say No to Fun. (Even factoring in the small chance of gastrointestinal armageddon).
Nice to hear your voice there. 🙂
Right. That’s it. I am making a pact with myself to eat more street food on my upcoming trip to Latin America. I definitely don’t have guts of steel (quite the opposite!) but you only live once, right?!
I prefer street food because sometimes I’m intimidated by the restaurants. If I don’t know the language, who knows what item the restaurant might serve me? (Intestines or other innards are the one thing I DON’T want to try.) But with street food, it’s so easy to just point at what looks good. The street food in Luang Prabang sounds incredible.