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A small city, not yet overrun by tourists, some people will be surprised by the variety and quality of restaurants in Luang Prabang. There is plenty of traditional local food on offer, usually at very reasonable prices, and also a dose of standard European fare like stews, baguettes and steaks for the less adventurous. Vegetarians will do well in the city, but carnivores certainly won't suffer either.
Although colonialism seldom gets good press, Luang Prabang's restaurant culture, like its architecture, has benefitted from its French connection. There are some quality French and French fusion restaurants in the city, and some glorious little bakeries which have a distinctly Parisian feel.
Laotian cuisine is distinct from other Southeast Asian cuisines, although of course there has been much influence across borders with time. Sticky rice is the staple food (eaten by hand). Other famous dishes include or , consisting of spicy marinated meat or fish with a combination of herbs and vegetables, and papaya salad () which has become a favorite with travellers. A fun and popular thing to do on a Luang Prabang holiday is take a cooking course to master some of the secrets of this scrumptious cuisine. You can take classes at Tamarind Restaurant and at Roots & Leaves Restaurant and Cooking School.
The best place to sample street food is the bustling Night Market; and Restaurant Row, on the banks of the Mekong, is a good area to sniff out restaurants of all kinds.
Don't leave without trying the wonderful local beer, Beer Lao!
Luang Prabang Night Market
Local / Opposite the Government Tourist Information Centre
One of the best (and cheapest) places to experience traditional Laos cuisine is at the Night Market. A number of food stalls and some tables are usually set up just near the Government Tourist Information Centre on the main street. A hefty plate of food costs around 5,000 Kip. Once you have paid, you are given your plate and you get to choose what you would like to fill it with. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian options are available and at this price you're sure to be back for a second helping. Be sure to try the spring rolls with (chilli dipping sauce) or (rice noodles with chicken and vegetables), and end off your meal with sticky rice.
Local / Ban Vat Nong
L'Elephant is run by a husband and wife team who serve a range of traditional Lao dishes, as well as some spectacular French cuisine. This restaurant is usually packed and once you've tasted the food you'll understand exactly why. For a taste of home with a touch of the East, try the lamb shank perfumed with cardamom or the roasted duck breast. The (lemongrass stuffed pork) will have you coming back for more, and if that doesn't do it then their varied chocolate desserts certainly will.
Local / Phousi Road 10
The House is another great place to have dinner or even just snacks with an afternoon beer. Catering for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, The House offers up a great selection of traditional Laotian cuisine as well as a number of Belgian specialities and other western staples. The tapas, burgers and pastas are scrumptious, while Belgian specialities include pork dijon and boeuf bourginon. Their Laos curries and Luang Prabang sausage are delicious and well presented.
Local / Ban Wat Sene, Old Town
Tamarind is a relaxing café in Luang Prabang's old quarter. Not only does Tamarind serve up some delicious Laos specialities, but it also offers cooking courses and gift-packs of local produce as well as cooking implements and recipes so that you can impress your friends back home. The best night to visit Tamarind is on a Friday when they have a fish barbeque. Their sampling platter is a great introduction to all types of Laos cuisine, while the (Luang Prabang parcels) are a great way to experience your food hands on. Tamarind is well known for its fragrant soups as well as the cool and freshly-made drinks served at the restaurant.
Lao Lao Garden
Barbecue / Phousi Road, Ban Aphay
Lao Lao Garden is a very popular open-air restaurant in Luang Prabang, with tables set in a candlelit garden. A favourite among backpackers and well-heeled travellers alike, what makes an evening at Lao Lao Garden so special is its convivial, festive ambience. Although everything on the extensive menu is worth a try, travellers are urged to go for the do-it-yourself barbeque option; where you are brought a basket of raw meat and vegetables, that you cook at your leisure on a round hotplate in the middle of your table.