Luang Prabang, Laos: Where I Ate as a Vegan
I recently went to Luang Prabang with no idea of what to expect. My housemate from university was in Asia so we decided to plan a trip nearby. Perhaps rather ignorantly, the main (and possibly only) reason I chose Luang Prabang was for their gorgeous cascading waterfalls I'd always dreamed of visiting.
Can you blame me?
I knew very little of the town (apart from the fact that the night market had a vegan buffet) but within those 5 days, the impression Luang Prabang left on me was profound! From walking through the old town, the picturesque scenery to the kindness of the locals — I fell in love with it all.
Food for me is obviously is a big part of travelling, but having been so busy I hadn't actually looked into it. I went in hoping for the best, and Laos delivered. As with my post on Durban and Bali posts, I had no intention of creating this post but being so inspired by the food I ate, it was definitely something I wanted to share.
MANDA de LAOS
Have your lunch by the pond
It doesn't get more beautiful than this.
Completely in awe
There are no words (or even photos) that can fully depict the beauty of MANDA de LAOS. After a morning of walking the Old Town from end to end, having lunch at this beautiful restaurant was exactly what we needed.
Hidden down the streets of Luang Prabang, MANDA de LAOS encompasses a UNESCO classified lily pond, immersing you as you dine in a complete tropical paradise.
Serving Laotian family cuisine specialties, the food was refreshing and packed with fresh flavours. The servers were also attentive and helped make suggestions for what I could order as a vegan. I highly recommend the Tofu Laap! Just check your order doesn't come with eggs.
Hands down the best dining experience of the trip — from the atmosphere to the decor, food and service.
Our first hotel was located right by town so the night market was our first stop. Apart from the vegan buffet, I was most excited for khanom krok, an accidentally vegan, gluten-free coconut custard cake I had actually come across for the first time at Borough Market.
Gooey in the centre, crispy on the outside, this Thai/Laotian street food will always be a favourite. So much goodness for only 5000kip (RM2.50/50p)!
There are 2-3 stalls at the front of the night market that sell it (the end closest to the post office).
Eat them warm!
Sitting in the belly of the night market in a narrow, smokey alley, squeezing up on make shift benches, surrounded by exciting sounds and shouts—we were completely immersed.
I had come across Luang Prabang's infamously cheap vegan buffet on my vegansofsea Instagram before, so it was definitely something I had to check out for myself. For only 15,000kip (RM7/£1.50) you can stack your bowl up with anything from their huge vegan selection.
Vegetables, rice, noodles, potatoes, tofu, spring rolls, even banana fritters—the buffet had it all. I packed a little bit of everything into my bowl, but the noodles and spring rolls were definitely a winner for me.
The vegan buffet was our first meal in Laos and a great way to kick off the trip. While the food itself wasn't particularly different to cheap food you could get in Malaysia, it was the atmosphere that made the experience.
One of the charming cafes along the main street in the Old Town, Bouang is the perfect stop for relaxing lunch break to escape from the the midday heat. Serving Asian dishes with a twist, Boung's menu features an extensive selection for vegans and non-vegans alike. I opted for a mix fruit shake (which I think they helped make vegan), a Buddha bowl salad and fresh mango spring rolls, which again they made vegan by changing the sauce. It's easy to miss out on having fresh vegetables when you're travelling, so this meal felt much needed!
Don't forget to sign the bathroom before you leave
I came across Pizza Phan when researching the best vegan food in Luang Prabang, and turns out the restaurant was right around the corner from our second hotel. After moving, Lorenzo didn't feel so well so we had an early night and headed over to Pizza Phan for dinner. Simple but intimate, Pizza Phan is set up in the backyard of a house with a few candle lit tables under the stars—definitely the environment for a relaxing evening.
Because neither of us were feeling hungry, we shared a margherita pizza—ordered half without cheese. Our strange order was happily made and came straight from the wood fire oven.
Vegan Dipping Sampler
3 vegan 'jeows' or dips, with dried Mekong river weeds with tomato, garlic and sesame (Khai Pene).
The jeows were a mild tomato salsa (Jeow Mak Len), smokey eggplant dip (Jeow Mak Keua) and a blend of coriander, chilli and garlic (Jeow Pak Hom). Eaten with sticky rice rolled into small balls the traditional way, the dips were light and refreshing with their own unique flavours.
The smokey eggplant dip was a winner for me and kept me going back for more!
For our last dinner in Luang Prabang, the choice was between 2 highly reviewed restaurants, Tamarind and l'Elephant Vert. We ended up choosing Tamarind and had mixed feelings about the experience. While the service and ambience sitting on the terrace by the road was great, the food itself was decent but nothing outstanding. The vegan dipping starter was flavourful but the Tofu Laap was a bit too salty and heavy for me.
Perhaps it was because we went in with high expectations, and maybe if we'd ordered to share we would've enjoyed the experience more, but it definitely wasn't the highlight of the trip for me. What I will give them though is that their vegan labelling and attention to dietary restrictions helped me order with ease, so props to them for that!
Despite not knowing what to expect, Luang Prabang delivered and blew me away me with what it had to offer. From street food full of character to restaurants exuding uniqueness, what I ate on this trip is something I'll remember fondly. Apart from the restaurants mentioned, another thing I enjoyed doing (and highly encourage you to do too) was sitting at the cafes along the main street at the Old Town, sipping on freshly squeezed lemon juice (sans the syrup). It was the best way to cool off after a day of exploring and watching the town transform over sunset was one of my favourite parts of the trip xxx