Thursday, July 4, 2013

Free Eating Guide in Laos

Things you can eat: always ask, because local recipes can vary.

Rice
Rice- brown, black, steamed, sticky, or as noodles, rice is your friend. It is eaten by Lao people with every meal of the day.  I know that that the other term for sticky rice is glutinous rice, but never mind- it does not contain the same protein that causes you problems. Spend enough time in Asia and you will be sick of the stuff, but you will always be able to eat something

Lap
Lap- (also spelled lab, laarb, or some variation) The national dish of Laos!  It is made up of crumbled meat (beef, fish, chicken or pork) and sometimes tofu or bamboo mixed together with galanga, lemon grass, mint cilantro, lime, sugar and fish sauce.

You can find it in a multitude of forms here- red, thick and spicey, with chunks of tofu, mild and made from eggplant, green chilis, or with some kind of pork.  Usually listed as an apetizer, the Jeows are served with steamed carrots, kale or cabbage and sticky rice.  May contain fish sauce, and always double check that soy sauce, mushroom sauce, or oyster sauce is not an ingredient.

Sticky rice with coconut and mango- not as sweet as the Thai version, but still good.
Papaya Salad



Papaya Salad- wicked spicey, and full of fish sauce.  If you are buying from a street vendor, watch which sauces go into it, and if it looks dark brown stop them from using it.

Omelets and Fried Eggs- almost always available, see the paragraph on MSG










Things you MIGHT be able to eat:
Spring rolls

Spring rolls- in Northern Laos, they seem to use rice noodle sheets instead of wheat wrappers, that they then deep fry.  If you are sensitive to cross-contamination, stay away from these.

Soups- Pho, Khao Soi, noodle soups, vegetable soups. . . the Lao people really like to eat soup.  I personally only get soup if I can get it made to order and stay away from street vendors.  I make sure to ask for the white rice noodles, with NO soy sauce, NO oyster sauce and NO mushroom sauce, and pray for the best.

Curries- yellow, green, red, tofu. . .  most will use either soy sauce or fish sauce to give it a salty flavor.  I usually ask for just salt instead.

Stir Fried Anything-  whether you want fried rice, fried noodles, or some combination of veggies and/ or meat, they will automatically use soy/mushroom/oysters sauce unless you ask for something else.  If it comes out with a brown sauce, they might have used tamarind but probably didn't follow your instructions.
Fruit Smoothies- although I didn't drink them often, and when I did they weren't an issue, I read another blog that warned against smoothies because they might mix in some sort of wheat or barley powder in with the sugar.

Here is more good news: if you get tired of Lao food, almost every tourist town will have an Indian restaurant run by a family from Tamil Nadu that serves up curries, pakoras and dosas, all (most likely) safe for your consumption.

Although a food allergy creates a more challenging travel experience, I hope it doesn't hold you back from visiting.  With research, patience, and a lot of restaurant conversations traveling while celiac is entirely possible!

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