Hello, I am Francis AKA the Budget Belly. As I roam the globe I look out for the best low-cost food for the sake of backpackers and budget travelers worldwide. I take note and write about foods that will satisfy your hunger but not starve your wallet.
I’m Kendra AKA the Palate Princess, according to the Budget Belly. We have a much different budget, tastes and standards in our food experience which always makes it interesting when choosing a meal together. I’m always on the look out for delicious, fresh, healthy food; art on a plate; and a unique atmosphere around the world.
Recently we went to Luang Prabang in Laos. Here are some of the great food discoveries we made!
I love this Nam Khan riverside restaurant for the view of the river, the joy of the voices of the kids swimming, the hillside gardens and the cooling breezes. This papaya salad was a refreshing and a welcome meal during the hot day. I especially loved the sweet and pungent flavor of it with the peanuts and pork crackle.
I love Rosella Fusion because they use no MSG, and their prices are not as high as most other places. I also love pork rinds, which is the only part of this dish I tasted. They were yummm-my.
Dessert is my weak spot and this one was mouth-watering delicious. The vanilla flavor of Pandan mixed with the sweet taste of mango and bursts of lime zest and chili syrup is a wonderful combination. Khaiphaen is one of my favorite social business restaurants in Luang Prabang as you are always taken care of with a smile by the students of this hospitality training program that were former street youth or come from at-risk groups.
Desserts are the first to go on my list whenever I am on a budget. Not that they are super expensive, but they are not a necessary meal. Khaiphaen was very wonderful though, and I wouldn’t hesitate to spend there either since not only do you get great food, but you help a good cause as well.
I literally watched the owner of this restaurant, after ordering, pick the tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, watercress and mint fresh from her Mekong River hillside garden. The fresh herb flavor with the egg, garlic, fish sauce and lime juice dressing is a perfect flavor combination.
The Luang Prabang salad has many versions but the common thing they have that I liked a lot is the lemon-egg dressing. Although salads are usually on the more affordable side I’m primarily carnivorous so it didn’t quite make my list.
I love eggplant. So I love this dish. It is a mishmash of herbs and spices, and roasted eggplant. The best part is, some stalls sell it for 4000Kip a bag (contains about a cup). With some rice, it makes for a pretty healthy meal under 10000 Kip. Beware though, it is a local dish, so they make it quite spicy! Restaurants also serve it spiced to taste but for quite a bit more.
Of all the street food that the Budget Belly would come home with this was the most tasty. Would recommend in small quantities or with lots of rice if you have a sensitive stomach as it is super spicy! I prefer the presentation and spice level alterations to taste at the local restaurants though.
I’m normally not a sausage fan but, with the accompaniment of the banana pepper and spring onion chutney it was excellent.
This sausage was very good, and presented very well, but if you are a bit short on funds, you can still get the same kind of sausages in my next entry:
The Meat Stick is probably my go to meal here. One stick is usually only 10000 Kip, with your choices of pork, chicken, sausages, innards, skin, etc. Add a 5000 Kip bag of steamed sticky rice, and you have a full meal for only 15000 Kip. There is a danger of getting street food because they usually sit out in the hot air, so use good sense in picking the freshest ones. I always have them heat it up nice and good before I get them (It also helps to have a strong stomach).
To be honest, I am afraid of eating street food meat sticks as I’ve gotten food poisoning twice from them in Thailand. But, I was an amateur and didn’t follow Budget Belly’s good sense guidelines.
Oh how I love orlam! This traditional Laos style stew is my favorite dish in Laos. It has a super earthy flavor from the Sakan wood, herbs, eggplant and black mushrooms. I can’t even describe how delicious it is particularly with fish. Here is a recipe I found if you want to try it yourself. Big Tree Café was the only place in Luang Prabang I could find it with fish. Sitting on the patio at this restaurant is romantic and magical with the majestic green tree it is named after and the view of the Mekong River.
This dish is the one dish that I was completely willing to not budget on. The flavor is great (I second the fish orlam at Big Tree but it’s generally great anywhere) filling, quite healthy and hearty, it’s price is the only thing keeping it from being my own entry. Maybe I should have looked harder for a cheaper place for it 😀
A great breakfast for the only cool part of a Luang Prabang day. you get tons of veggies and noodles in a delicious broth. I am quite convinced it is chock full of MSG, but all of this only set me back 10000 to 20000 Kip.
The best part about Khao Soy Noodles is the huge bowl of fresh mint, basil, lettuce, spring onion, lime and green beans that come with it. One place has a fantastic peanut sauce to dip the beans in. My not so favorite part is the potential MSG headache and lethargy.
Mekong Riverweed or Khaiphaen mixed with these rice sticks is a salty, crunchy, savory treat. It is extra tasty with a nice dip to accompany it-in this case, tomato and Hmong mushroom dips.
I am mixed on these seaweed, as I really love the Korean style seaweed chips. It tastes well enough, but in this particular dish I feel the dips made it a whole lot better.
FCL is the name of the stall where a lady serves excellent fried chicken. I am convinced that it stands for Fried Chicken Lady. Or Fantastic Chicken Location. A Leg or Drumstick is only 5000 Kip, or Get 3 thighs for 10000 Kip. Best Value for chicken. Ever.
I don’t normally eat fried chicken but, as a dedicated curious food lover I had to give it a try. Wow, what crunch and juiciness! This is one well made fried chicken.
The barbecue/hot-pot places are great value for a filling and delicious meal. 60000 Kip gets you tons of veggies, some meat, and great tasting broth that can easily fill up two (even three) people.
There is a lady with a cart that sells steamed buns. She was going past our guesthouse once and urged us to try her food. It tasted really good, and we kept trying to catch her again but never did. We even tried other vendors but it didn’t quite taste the same. If you see her- she has a little horn that she toots and all she sells are steamed buns- go for it! You get 3 for 10000 Kip.
In Palate Pleasures In Pai, I mentioned Larb. There is a delicious Laotian version called Laab worth tasting at local restaurants.
These were ok food, I was not really satisfied or encouraged to go back. For 16000 Kip, though, you get all you can fit in a pretty big bowl, which is decent enough for a good (and relatively healthy) meal.
There are also numerous fruit shake/ sandwich stalls around which will only cost 20000 Kip for a juice and a sandwich. I ate here whenever i was in a pinch but wouldn’t if I could help it.
Not being one for street food normally, I actually really liked the flavorful fried mushrooms as a snack found at the morning market.
Do you have any food suggestions for Luang Prabang? Thoughts on the items in our list? Places you would like the Budget Belly or the Palate Princess to explore? Leave a comment and join our email list for more!