It’s a fact; Luang Namtha as well as being the most ethnically diverse province in Laos also has the most diverse range of dishes and ingredients; many of them coming directly from its vast jungled mountains.
Any Lao person can walk into Luang Namtha’s jungle and come out 10 minutes later with an armful of leaves, roots, shoots, insects, animals and mushrooms to eat, all of which vary month by month as different species come into season.
The best place to get a glimpse of this mind boggling array of edible nature is to go to the morning fresh market, as early as possible is better (it opens at 6am) because some of the seasonal delicacies such as protein packed giant night-wasp Larvae and herb-stuffed Rhinoceros beetles sell out pretty quick! You can walk up and down the aisles and view the fresh local produce; the vendors will be happy you stopped by and be delighted to demonstrate how what it is they are selling is eaten.
Every month and every season the selection changes as different species come into their abundant or edible stage.
After almost 3 years of living in Luang Namtha we are still seeing nuts, fruits, plants and vegetable we have never seen before. It is said that some of the world’s new superfoods are lurking in the Luang Namtha jungle waiting to be discovered by science…
The night market is the place to get your hands on the cooked jungle ingredient dishes Such as deep fried tiny frogs or BBQ bullfrogs and that classic dish stir fried Cicadas with chilli and kaffir lime leaves, but don’t expect any translations of what the dishes (or organisms are), the local vendor ladies don’t have much English.
For jungle food in a more user friendly format you can always venture to Bamboo Lounge Restaurant and get a daily Lao jungle ingredient “adventure” wood fired pizza! This socially responsible training restaurant takes ethnic minority people with no knowledge of English language or hospitality skills and teaches them everything they need to work in the restaurant, as well as donating their profits to LuangNamtha’s ‘Books in Schools’ program, so it’s definitely worth a visit!