Top 10 places to eat in Luang Prabang, Laos

Often described as plain compared to its fragrant South-East Asian neighbours, food in Laos is just as tasty. You just need to know where to find it...
Food in Luang Prabang can be as fragrant and flavourful as nearby SE Asian destinations
Food in Luang Prabang

Spicy papaya salad with shrimp paste. Photo: mildkakkanang / Shutterstock


Long overlooked by travellers for more-popular South-East Asian destinations, Laos is fast becoming a must-visit destination. And the food served throughout the country is only adding to its draw...


Lao food makes use of the country’s abundant fresh vegetables, freshwater fish, chicken, duck, pork and beef. The staple of the Lao diet is sticky rice, which is used as a tool to eat most food by hand. Spices used in Lao cuisine include lemon grass, hot chillies, peanuts, coconut milk, ginger and the unique paa daek, or fermented fish paste.

One of the most common Lao dishes is laap, a “salad” made from minced meat, chicken or fish, mixed with lime juice, mint leaves and other spices. Laap is served with a pile of fresh leaves and eaten with sticky rice. Papaya salad (tam mak hong), another favourite, is a mix of green (unripe) papaya, lime, hot chillies and fish paste, to which can be added ingredients like peanuts and tomatoes.

Lao sweets often involve a mixture of sticky rice and coconut, and are sold at markets in little packages made from banana leaves.

As one of the most popular stops on the tourist trail, Luang Prabang has developed a good selection of Lao and French restaurants, with the occasional Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese place thrown in. There are also a few good Indian restaurants, as well as places serving Lao food that has been sanitised (or at least toned down) for foreigners.

We've explored markets, top-notch restaurants and the city's backstreets to uncover the tastiest.

1. The Apsara

Kingkitsarath Road
Tel: 071-254 670
www.theapsara.com

$$$

An excellent fusion menu of Lao and Thai dishes is served here. The open-air bar and dining area, which overlooks the Khan River, is a good place to lounge at. Dishes range from $5-1$13 (expensive for the city), and there is a wide range of wines to choose from. 

Be sure to leave room for desert. The options are creative, including a pumpkin and coconut parfait, with nashi pear poached in lemongrass and green tea.

2. Blue Lagoon

Ban Choumkong, beside the Royal Palace Museum

Tel: 071-253 698
www.blue-lagoon-restaurant.com
$$$


This elegant Swiss-German establishment has an extensive and sophisticated menu, with salads a popular choice, as well as a long wine list. Set in a tranquil garden courtyard beside Luang Prabang's Royal Palace Museum.

Travel to Laos to taste the best of the country's cuisine. Insight Guides can take you there...

Image titleSweet and savoury grilled coconut-rice hotcakes. Photo: Shutterstock


3. Joma Bakery Café


Chao Fa Ngum Road (next to the post office)

Tel: 071-252 292

www.joma.biz
$


A well-known and well-regarded Canadian bakery and café selling a splendid variety of pastries and breads. The focus here is on quality ingredients, from sourcing butter from New Zealand to getting in the area's freshest passionfruits. They also make their own ice cream in-house. 

Don't miss their breakfast menu, offering French oat toast with mango and coffee shipped in from Southern Laos.

4. Le Café Ban vat Sene

Sakkarine Road

Tel: 071-252 482
www.elephant-restau.com

$$

Run by the same owner as the famous L’Eléphant restaurant, this quiet and lovely café features pastries, sandwiches and salads. Order a Lao coffee to wash it all down.

5. Dyen Sabai

Ban Phan Luang, near Wat Phan Luang

Tel: 020-510 4817
www.dyensabai.com
$

An excellent Lao restaurant located on the other side of the Khan River opposite the old city. Specialises in a Lao-style fondue cum barbeque, and, in season, the mango and sweet sticky rice is excellent.

6. L’eléphant Restaurant

Ban Wat Nong

Tel: 071-252 482
www.elephant-restau.com

$$$

An elegant French brasserie situated on a corner in the most picturesque part of the old city. A daytime tea salon and a variety of daily specials including vegetarian meals make this many visitors’ favourite restaurant in Luang Prabang.

Insight Guides: Laos and Cambodia can direct you to the best places to eat in Vientiane, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and more

Image titleSticky rice wrapped in Bon leaves. Photo: Shutterstock 

7. Lao Lao Garden

Phu Si Road

Tel: 020-7777 0446
$

Serve-yourself Lao barbeques are the standard here, but they also do some good laap dishes, including an unusual vegetarian one. There’s a long list of cocktails to choose from.

8. Tamarind

Next to The Apsara Hotel

Tel: 071-213 128
www.tamarindlaos.com
$$

One of Luang Prabang’s truly exceptional dining experiences, the Tamarind offers a wonderful selection of traditional and modern Lao cuisine. The fruit and vegetable juices are particularly refreshing on a hot day.

9. Tamnak Lao Restaurant

Sakkarine Road, Ban Wat Saen
Tel: 071 252 525
www.tamnaklao.net
$$

Sister restaurant of the successful Tamnak Lao in Vientiane. The restaurant prides itself on the fresh- ness of its dishes, nothing is pre-prepared and the food is all the better for it. They also run a respected cooking school opposite Villa Santi in a nearby lane.


10. Tum Tum Cheng Restaurant and Cooking School


Sakkarine Road
Tel: 071-253 187
$$

Tastefully decorated, this third TTC branch to open in Luang Prabang serves Lao and Lao-European food. Cooking classes are also held here; Chef Chandra will show you how to prepare Lao meals and select ingredients.


Feeling hungry? Find more foodie-themed features below

Vietnamese street food sensations

12 foods that look gross but taste so damn good

How to find REAL Chinese food

Sri Lanka's tastiest food experiences

An aphrodisiac food tour around the world

Best places to go in June, July, and August

Best places to go in September, October, and November