Archives for : Luang Namtha food

Where to eat – Baw Pen Yang Art Gallery & Restaurant

I’d been in Luang Namtha almost two weeks before I stumbled upon Baw Pen Yang. A town with an indiscernible lack of easily obtainable ‘go here to eat!’ Lonely Planetesque advice (that’s where we come in); this is one that would be altogether too easy to miss lest you’re the sort prone to explore the back streets of each new place you find yourself.

It’s not just its positioning but its entire lack of online presence, even the website displayed on their sign is currently under construction, that makes Baw Pen Yang somewhat of a mystery.  Add in the fact that it’s Luang Namtha’s sole art gallery/restaurant and the air of mystery is intensified yet further.  Then couple this with the charming and welcoming disposition of the outdoor dining area, and it was enough to disengage the auto-pilot setting which was taking me to the Forest Retreat Bamboo Lounge in search of breakfast.

It boasts an extensive, stylish menu with English translations for every dish and drink. I went for a hearty breakfast and, having had lunch there too, I’d say this is what they do best.  My morning-long longing for a pancake saw me fight against every fibre of my body and order the French breakfast, ignoring the English option with its notable bacon and sausage inclusion. These set breakfasts, of which there’s also the choice to go American, are priced between 25,000 and 30,000 kip (around 3 to 4 US dollars).

I’d planned to take photo of the omelette as well but I was too hungry

Mine consisted of a toasted baguette, an omelette, a pancake with chocolate (other toppings available) and a coffee. All were saep lai (delicious) and what’s more, the pancake arrived freshly made within one minute of having finished the omelette – the chef had forecast my eating habits down to a tee.

The cushions and plants made for a relaxing seated area and a suitable place to while away the hours and watch the world go by. The world in this instance narrowed down to one of many small Beer Lao distribution centres across the road.

The waiter was friendly and spoke good English, this is a business which only opened its doors in 2014. With the town’s burgeoning tourism/trekking appeal bringing in more and more people each year, it’s one place which can be sure of an increase in customers should it continue in the manner in which it’s begun.

The charms of Baw Pen Yang do not stop there however. As I cleverly inferred from the name of the place this was no ordinary restaurant but an art gallery and restaurant. The decor was suitably colourful and picturesque with vibrant nature scenes adorning the walls.

The art, all of which is by a local artist, is available to view at the gallery. Prints can also be bought for very reasonable prices.

Well worth a visit for just a drink and a glance at the artwork, or, if you’re nearby and hungry, then you’re in luck.

Baw Pen Yang – go now before there are queues out the door.

Key Points:

- Fairly priced Western & Lao Mixed Menu in English        – WIFI

- Set breakfasts (incl. drink) start at 25,000 kip       – Efficient & friendly service

(Note: Ignore the hilarious toilet sign)

Where to find Baw Pen Yang:

This restaurant can be found down a side road off the main strip. On the corner of the road are Lai’s place and Green Discovery, turn down this road and it’s about halfway down the initial line of restaurants and shops on the left hand side.

Where to eat – Zuela Guesthouse and restaurant

The Zuela Guesthouse is rated number one in Luang Namtha on Tripadvisor but, quite understandably, most reviews focus almost entirely on the rooms. The accommodation, almost all agree, is clean, comfortable, very reasonably priced (around 80,000 kip per night at the time of writing) with friendly staff and a relaxing atmosphere. There are hot showers and passable WIFI (a solid and reliable internet connection can be elusive in Luang Namtha). Overall though one of the best guesthouses in Luang Namtha. It’s advisable to book early as they fill up fast especially in busier seasons.

Bikes and motorbikes/scooters are also available to rent (with a discount for guests) and they also offer a variety of trekking options as well as the option to book your onward travel out of Luang Namtha if you so desire.


Full House

Enough of the hearsay. Having been to the restaurant we can offer a first hand review! Tucked away down an alleyway just off the main street in Luang Namtha it would be easy to miss the Zuela Guesthouse or just choose to eat somewhere else. This would be a mistake. They offer an extensive, varied menu with both Western and Lao food at quite reasonable prices. You can also choose for more local Northern Laos delicacies such as Laap (minced meat, spices, dry fried and crushed rice grains and broth eaten with vegetables and sticky rice) and Jeow (a special chilli sauce which many dishes can be prepared with).


 There’s a chilled atmosphere and you can choose to sit either inside or in their well designed outdoor seating area. Staff are very friendly and speak good English with the menus too in excellent English – somewhat of a rarity in this province at this point.

I went for the vegetable spring rolls with a garlic dip as a side and a chicken and green bean stir fry. Both were great and service was faster than many places (Laos in general is pretty relaxed, eating especially is a slow paced affair though often the better for it). With a large Beer Lao to drink the bill came to just over 50,000 kip (about $6). With the portion sizes (the spring rolls were definitely a side to share) this was a bargain and I will definitely be back.


Advice: Go to Zuela on an empty stomach

Luang Namtha’s Jungle Food Challenge

Masterchef in the jungle? Food in northern Laos gets serious…

Recently Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant was lucky enough to get 2 volunteers for a month, who not only taught the Lao staff there a lot about hospitality but were so excited by the abundant fresh produce available at Luang Namtha’s famous morning market, that they decided to put their cooking skills to the test and embark upon Luang Namtha’s first “Jungle Food Challenge“!

Laos most unique and fresh selection of ingredients

The main cause of Jack (from Spain) and Cass’s (from Australia) excitement was the fresh seasonal produce from the jungle (which you can read many posts on), which Luang Namtha is famous for, many of these fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, roots, leaves, shoots and flowers cant be found ANYWHERE ELSE in the world!

Northern Laos food challenge

Jungle food Challengers: Jack and Cass

So essentially Jack and Cass wanted to try cooking fusion dishes using ingredients that most likely no other westerner in the world has used before, and the results were delicious! This challenge went on for 6 days, usually Bamboo Lounge being full of customers, that were skillfully being wined and dined by the Lao staff at the same time this challenge was going on (one of the rules was the customers come first!).

Jack Cosson has trained as a chef in Europe and Cass Hay is a “foodie” from way back and has managed cafe’s in Australia. Jack with his professional training and euro-cooking style ‘vs’ Cass with her Asian heritage (her mum is Chinese-Malaysian) and life long passion for creating good food…an excellent match!

Challenge 1: Tomato theme:   who can come up with what amazing Tomato themed dish using Luang Namtha delicious local Tomato?

The results: Jack came up with a ultimate gazpacho featuring stuffed tomato and Cass came up with a play on choo chee fun (a Chinese dish of steamed, filled fresh rice paper rolls); fresh rice paper filled with tofu, mushrooms, lentils, a tomato lemongrass and lime leaf sauce, and banana flower, tomato, Thai basil and balsamic garnish

Luang Namtha Tomato dish

Cass’s tomato Choo Chee Fun

Luang Namtha Tomato dish

Jack’s Ultimate Gazpacho

Challenge 2: Mushroom theme:   Luang Namtha has an amazing array of mushrooms, with a constantly changing seasonal stock from the jungle as well as shitake, wood ear, oyster, enoki, straw and many other species available all year round. So who can use what mushrooms to create the most interesting and tasty dish?

The results: Jack came up with a mixed mushroom terrine, spiced pumpkin and sesame tofu. Cass created a tofu steak, bed of lentils and tsi mushroom, fried enoki, roast oyster mushrooms, shitake sauce and kim chee combo.

Northern Laos mushroom jungle food dish

Cass’s mushroom combo

Luang Namtha jungle food dish

Jacks mushroom creation

Challenge 3: “Childhood memories”  theme:  this nights concept was to come up with a dish that you remembered or were influenced by in childhood, an inventive one!

The results: Jack decided to create an edible ode to his Granddad Rudi which was crispy potato pancakes, Bolognaise sauce and picked cucumber garnish. While Cass came up with 3 memories from her youth consisting of a ginger fragrant mushroom and sesame rice congee, followed by proper baked beans over sticky rice and coconut cream, and to finish, a caramelized sweet potato and jackfruit curry tucked inside and baked in banana leaf; Lao style!

Lao fusion cooking using Luang namtha jungle foods

Cass’s trio of congee, baked bean “pizza” and baked curry

Luang Namtha jungle food fusion dish cooking

Jacks potato pancakes, bolognaise sauce and cucumber

Challenge 4: Any 10 jungle ingredients, 20 minutes and no prep time challenge:  this means Jack and Cass could choose any 10 ingredients from the Luang Namtha fresh market, but the had only 20 minutes to do all the preparation and cooking!

The results: Jack created local watercress soup with fresh peas and tsi mushroom. Cass countered with coriander and mint pesto on fresh rice noodle sheets, toasted endamame (soy beans) and cherry tomatoes. Cass also made it with 30 seconds to spare on the clock, while Jack was over by 1.5 minutes. Not bad considering Forest Retreat was packed out with fascinated customers at the time!

Luang Namtha, northern Lao jungle fusion food

Jack: a simple watercress soup with all the trimmings

Lao fusion cooking using northern Lao jungle foods

Cass: pesto, noodles, beans and tomatoes

The Final Challenge: for the last competition, Jack and Cass would choose ingredients for the other to make an amazing dish out of!   This means the selection of a combination of ANY of the weird and wonderful ingredients from the Luang Namtha fresh market, including insects, internal organs, spices, Bamboo rats..the possibilities were endless. But Jack and Cass were kind to each other (kind of).

The results: Jack came up with the following from what Cass chose for him a cauliflower, roasted banana flower and tamarind puree, roasted baby eggplant, courgettes, sautee’d green amaranth pods, fried tofu and tofu noodles. And finally Cass created this from what jack chose for her: charred chili, garlic and mandarin sauce feat. jungle olives, sweet potato and dill mash, spiced roasted eggplant, bitter melon with garlic and banana chips.

Luang Namtha northern Lao jungle fusion food dish

Jacks final creation!

Northern Laos jungle foods

Cass’s final jungle food masterpiece

So this was it the end of Luang Namtha’s first ever jungle food challenge. Both Jack and Cass came out with some truly delicious dishes many times using ingredients they had never seen or cooked with before. There can be no clear winner; Jacks professional training and slick style was given a really good run for its money by Cass’s imagination and ability to put together some damn good flavors.

In conclusion, there really is some AMAZING fresh foods to be found in Laos, especially Luang Namtha. Go into Forest Retreat Laos and see what the changing specials of the day are!

15 Reasons Why Luang Namtha Province Is The Best Of Laos

After traveling all around Southeast Asia, Laos is definitely a highlight for many, but for us coming back to Luang Namtha really hits home that this northern province is the best of Laos! Here’s why:

1. We have the BEST roads in Laos making transit far easier than the rest of the country and self guided tours on mountain bikes and motorbikes much more user friendly;  think flat, well paved, wide roads…not rock strewn, cratered, dusty and uncomfortable dirt lanes (except in tiny villages).

2. We have the most accessible National Park in Laos , which is called the Nam Ha NPA = National Protected Area ( also abbreviated to NBCA = National Biodiversity Conservation Area) with a huge range of genuine, highly regulated eco-tourism adventure activities and cultural immersion experiences to be had. The Nam Ha NPA is one of the top 200 important eco-regions of the world with tropical rainforests in the valleys and cooler montane forests higher up making for staggering biodiversity of plants birds, insects and animals. The most interesting of which are the clouded leopard, tiger and leopard.

Kayaking in northern Laos

Kayaking in Luang Namtha’s NPA

3. The people are so nice! The nicest and kindest people in Laos. This is partly because of the ethnic diversity creating a culture of tolerance, but also because local attitudes are so laid back, westerners get treated the same as local people!

Luang Namtha ethnic tribal experience

Luang Namtha has the nicest people in Laos!

4. The climate is fantastic with perpetual cool nights and sunny days, because of the altitude (700m above sea level) it never gets too hot for comfort like southern parts of Laos.

5. Luang Namtha is a natural travel crossroads between Thailand (180km away), China (50km away), Myanmar (130km away) and Vietnam (the city of Dien Bien Phu is 280km from Luang Namtha), this makes overland travel (the best way to see Southeast Asia) the logical choice.

6. Luang Namtha has the best and most varied Lao food, and is famous for its quality and huge variety. More species of jungle fruits, nuts, roots, seeds and vegetables than you can shake a stick at, combined with delicious dishes from different ethnic tribes and the most lush growing conditions. Luang Namtha even has access to cold climate (as well as tropical) fruits and veggies like apple, pear, broccoli, cauliflower and potato all year round.


Amazing food in Luang Namtha

The blend of culture and nature in Luang Namtha makes the food the best in Laos!

7. Close proximity to Thailand and the brand new friendship bridge, make overland traveling from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai to Luang Namtha (and south) much faster and more comfortable than ever.

8. One of the cheapest provinces in Laos. Most accommodation in town is 80,000 kip per night for a decent room with free water and WiFi, local food can very cheap from the night market and even award winning pizzas, salads and pastas from Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant are much cheaper than they would be in Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

9. The most ethnically diverse province. There are over 19 different minority tribes in this province making it the most ethnically diverse part of Southeast Asia! Go and explore these villages, the people will be very happy to meet you. And walking through a village and being interested about the culture and their way of life is empowering to them and teaches them the importance of preserving their culture.

Visit to a Yao village in Luang Namtha

You can visit up to 19 different ethnic minority tribes in Luang Namtha

10. Chilled out atmosphere, lots of traveler interaction. Most people go to Luang Namtha to join groups for eco-tours, but when you’re not in the jungle, Luang Namtha is a great and scenic spot to chill for a while and meet some new friends if you want to.

11. Fastest internet in Laos; especially at Forest Retreat Laos! The proximity to China and Thailand and good infrastructure make for some of the fastest connections in Laos. Sweet!

12. Beautiful mountain and rice paddy scenery. The best place to see this is to head north out of town 2km, hang a right at the roundabout and cross the bridge, travel about 5km up this straight, flat, well-paved road and after you pass Thong Dee village (Ban Thong Dee) start looking for a good chill out hut on your right in the 30 square km “park” of rice paddies, completed with its own Eco-system! Walk out through the rice and witness an amazing sunset over 6 layers of mountains in every direction!


Luang Namtha rice paddies

Close to town, yet one of the most serene places I have ever been.

13. Get immersed into local tribes village life, Luang Namtha is the best place in Laos to base yourself then go and visit these tribes and experience different cultures and ways of life. Our record is 7 different ethnic tribes on 1 day on motorbike! In a small range of distance you will come across many different tribes living in separate villages, very cool to experience.

14. There are so many different eco-tourism tour options, all highly regulated by the local government using Luang Namtha’s award winning eco-tourism model. You can do: trekking, kayaking, cycling, rafting, motorbiking, cultural immersion experiences, fishing, cooking, homestays, forest retreats… Forest Retreat Laos is the only and most awarded eco-tourism company (other providers are agencies) who gives the most back to the local community and takes people deep into the Nam Ha NPA for amazing experiences.

Luang Namtha trekking

Trekking in the primary forest of Luang Namtha’s NPA

15. Amazing friends you will make when you do an eco-tourism tour in Luang Namtha. Nothing gets strangers bonding and makes fast friends like trekking around in the jungle for a few days! Many lasting friendships have been forged in the wilds of Luang Namtha…especially when topped off by a few cocktails when the group returns.

We hope you liked our reasons why Luang Namtha is so great, why dont you come and check it out for yourself!

Forest Retreat’s Bamboo Lounge Restaurant = real western food

It’s official; Luang Namtha now has its own wood-fired pizza oven, it is even painted green and is decorated with Buddhas eyes, so you cannot miss it…

This iconic wood fired oven made from local clay has now served up thousands of authentic Italian (and not-so-Italian) pizzas to travelers and locals alike. The wood fired oven now baked fresh bread rolls and loaves daily as well as cakes and Lao Banana breads.

Northern Laos best pizza oven

The worlds most enlightened wood fired oven

So when you are in northern Laos if you get sick of sticky rice, or fried rice or rice noodles (it can actually happen ;) ) and you are craving the comfort foods from home or have just got back from a 3 day trek in the Nam Ha NPA dreaming of cheese and bacon for the last 2 days…then Forest Retreat’s Bamboo Lounge restaurant can help you!

Bamboo Lounge is rated Luang Namtha’s #1 restaurant according to Tripadvisor, it has also won an excellence award for 2013 and an International Star Award for Quality.

Northern Laos best western food

BLET baguette; really good eating!

The concept behind  Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant is that it is a Lao and western collaboration. Western managers teach Lao staff English language, hospitality, customer service, hygiene and western standard cooking skills as part of their employment. Lao staff teach westerners about their culture, way of life and traditions.

Birthday cake

Even the locals enjoy real western food

Bamboo Lounge specialises in authentic western dishes. The drinks menu features a range of fresh roasted and ground espresso coffees, freshly squeezed juices and excellent western standard cocktails (with either local Lao lao rice whiskey varients or the real stuff).

Northern Laos best cocktails

Fresh fruit cocktails

For food you can have all day breakfasts, sandwiches on home made bread, authentic Italian pastas and wood fired pizzas or salads and other goodies like chat potatoes and risottos.  Their menu has many ingredients are either sourced from abroad or made from scratch like tomato pizza base, soups, pasta sauce, pesto, hummus and olive tapenade.

real cheese and bread? In Asia?

Mmmm,tuna melt on homemade bread…

There are many plants from the jungle, fast WiFi and the comfiest chairs and sofas in town. The service is quick, smiley and professional.

Northern laos best pizza

Pon cooks like an Italian!

So if you find yourself in Luang Namtha craving some REAL comfort food from home, follow the smell of freshly baked bread to Bamboo Lounge Laos.

Go for the real local culinary experience

Hang out at Luang Namtha’s night market and enjoy local food and drinks

You cannot leave Luang Namtha without spending at least one evening at Luang Namtha’s night market. If you want to experience an authentic local night out, this is the place to be.

The night market of Luang Namtha opens every single day around five in the afternoon and usually stays open as long as there are customers. In the wet season they might close around 21.00 and in the dry season this means around 23.30, since nearly every bar and restaurant has to be closed by that time.

Nonetheless, the night market is the very spot to hang around at night if you want a real local experience! Late afternoon, the tribal sales women arrive at the market place and start to display their goods. You can find some souvenirs here – like traditional Lao skirts, other handicrafts or CD’s with popular Lao music – but the night market is mainly about food. And drinking.

Luang Namtha is known for it’s local specialities that you cannot find anywhere else in Asia. Village people collect vegetables, herbs and spices from the jungle and use these in their traditional dishes. At the covered section of the night market, you will find long tables with all these dishes displayed.

And of course you will find some crazy stuff here as well. What about deep fried grasshoppers, a salad of silkworms or little snails to go with your sticky rice? You can either take away the dishes you like in a plastic bag, or select the plates you want and find yourself a table at the centre of the market. Or, if you’re not craving exotic foods, just grab a Beer Lao and share it – local style – with the people sitting next to you.

If you want less adventurous food, there are enough options as well. Get yourself some Lao style spring rolls for an appetizer, a spicy noodle soup as main dish and some fried banana’s for dessert. And if you’re ready for the drinking, which is part of the social life at the night market, you can choose from a wide variety of Lao Lao, the locally brewed rice whisky.

When you don’t get too hammered on the Beer Lao’s and the Lao Lao’s, you will notice that the night market gets quit messy after a few hours. It is usual for local people to throw their food waste on the ground and to leave their empty beer bottles on the tables. Don’t feel uncomfortable and do as the locals: soon the stray dogs will eat the food from the floor and the food stall holders will take away the bottles.

So the next day, people can come and make everything dirty again!

Luang Namtha’s morning market

Run into some crazy stuff on your stroll through the morning market

Visiting Luang Namtha’s morning market is one of the best ways to get a glimpse of Lao local life. People from Luang Namtha and nearby villages come here to buy their fruits and vegetables, new clothes or tools like machetes. People from villages near the jungle come here as well to sell jungle meat and edible plants that they’ve foraged from the jungle.

If you go to the market by bicycle or motorbike, you can park your vehicle in the ‘parking lot’, near the main entrance, for a mere one thousand kip. Directly behind the parking lot, you will find Lao women sitting on little stools next to a mat on which they’ve displayed their produce. Bananas, spring onion, coriander, cabbages and other local vegetables, fruits and herbs are for sale here. And don’t forget to have a look at the local delicacies, like these fried silk worms!

When you enter the covered section of the market, you will immediately pick up the fragrance of numerous different spices. Stroll along the stalls to find dried noodles and cooking oils next to the spices. Here you will find a lot of small containers filled with all sorts of seasoning, like fish or chilli paste. And what would be a better way to kill time if it’s not busy than watching soaps?

Those with strong stomachs can continue walking on the far side of the market there they will find the meat section of the market. Intestines, buffalo skin and even pigs’ faces can be found here. The sales women keep themselves busy shooing away the flies with plastic bags attached to the end of thin bamboo sticks.

A little bit further down are basins with live fresh water fish.  Other live animals for sale here include chicken and duck. Local people choose the fittest, or the fattest, chickens and ducks for their dinners.

In the back, by the huge sacks of rice, are minority people, who have come from out of town to sell their edible plants and leaves that they’ve foraged from the jungle. And next them, the seamstresses are sitting at their sowing machines to repair clothes.

Getting hungry from all of this shopping? By now you will have reached the stalls with local dishes. Treat yourself to a noodle soup, some freshly prepared jungle food or fried bananas. You can also try a typical Asian dessert: fluorescent coloured jellies served in a plastic bag with sweet coconut milk.


If you happen to have have run out of toiletries, go and have a look at the tiny shops at the right. Here you can stock up on toothpaste, shampoo and soap.

Do you want to get yourself a souvenir other than the bracelets the Akha-ladies sell on Luang Namtha’s streets? At Luang Namtha’s day market you can get yourself handicrafts made from rattan, like tiny boxes to serve sticky rice in or a handmade wooden mortar and pestle.

But of course you can also treat yourself to a freshly brewed bottle of Lao Lao, the local rice whiskey that Laos is famous for.

Looking for something a little more crazy or funny? Go inside the market on the right and get lost between all the Chinese clothing and shoe shops. It won’t take long for you to find all kinds of hilarious T-shirts and flipflops. And honestly, who doesn’t want to go home with these?

Luang Namtha: Jungle Food Central

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.

Giant wasp larvae and mouth-numbing spice

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.

Stuffed and BBQed bullfrogs…

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.

Jungle vegies at the night market

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!

Rhinoceros beetle and pesto pizza…yum!

Rambo Fusion

I would like to present Rambo Fusion with two awards, for quirkiest name and best BBQ in Luang Namtha.

I guess it was the air of mystery that attracted Lizzie and I to Rambo, the name giving away little about the food and the location out of view from any road. We had been talking about going for a while, but didn’t really expect much. When we got there though, we were pleasantly surprised. The layout is very well done with enclosed booths for each group and lots of plant growth all around. The staff welcomed us instantly and seemed very pleased to get some Western customers. As is the case with most restaurants in Asia, the menu provided some entertainment. We decided to try beef breast and pig breast as our BBQ meats.

Before the food arrives, the barbecue must be assembled. This consists of a bucket of coals in the middle of the table and a metallic pyramid on top. You are then brought your chosen meats along with glass noodles, egg noodles and more vegetables than I care to mention. Not forgetting, of course, the obligatory Beerlao.

This style of barbecue can be seen in many parts of Asia. The idea is that you fry the meat on the slope of the pyramid, and all the juices run into the broth around the outside, which is where you cook the noodles and vegetables. By the end of the meal, the broth becomes the most flavoursome soup, definitely worth eating a few less noodles to save space for.

 All in all the experience was great. The meat was good quality, the vegetables plentiful, and the surroundings pleasant. The concept of cooking your own food also makes the whole thing good fun, especially if you’re in a group. If you come to Luang Namtha, you should spend one night at Bamboo Lounge and one night at Rambo Fusion!

Empty plates and a satisfied customer

The Luang Namtha Fresh Market

So you think you have seen it all at produce markets in South East Asia?

Wrong! You haven’t seen the Luang Namtha fresh market; one of the coolest of the many we have seen throughout South East Asia.

The daily market in Luang Namtha, northern Laos

For a start the local ladies running the market are lovely, encouraging you to try a free sample of the weird and wonderful foods they have prepared. And if you don’t want to buy they will still give you a smile as you walk away.

The diversity of fresh produce from the local river banks (where they grow all the food crops), the jungle and from southern china is amazing! You are sure to see many types of vegetables, fruit, herbs and animals you have never seen before and get some amazing photos to show people back home.

Highlights of the Luang Namtha fresh market:

  1. Eating at Luang Namtha's marketThe cooked food aisle:  Sample northern Lao delicacies like boiled chicken innards (apparently the best part of the chicken!), dog liver on a stick, stuffed Rhinoceros beetles, dried water Buffalo skin jerky, bamboo rat or smoked squirrel. There are also plenty of snacks more appealing to the western palate like delicious fried bananas, sweet sticky rice balls flavoured with Pandan leaf, deep fried bamboo parcels stuffed with pork mince and many other palatable delights.
  2. Luang Namtha's delicaciesLocal “wild” foods: Animals unfamiliar to us westerners gathered from the forest, rice paddies and rivers are still on the menu for the local Lao people. Freshwater snails, strange tiny fish and invertebrates from the river, huge beetles in swarming bowls, giant wasp larvae, Silk worm pupae, many varieties of frogs and even flying squirrels can be found for sale with enthusiastic owners telling you how good (sep lai) they are! Occasionally a protected wild animal will slip into the selection, so if you see a protected Lao animal be sure to take a photo and tell the vendor you will show it to the department of tourism; with continued education and reinforcement local people will stop harvesting the amazing animals from the jungle.
  3. Filled with jelly and bright pink flesh, found at Luang Namtha's marketAwesome jungle fruit and berries: We are still finding new fruits and nuts we have never seen before from one tree or another in the jungle. Everything is seasonal and fresh and is only on sale depending on when the fruiting trees bear fruit. The vendors will show you how to eat whatever fruit/nut/seed/plant it is. Some highlights are giant purple fig-like jungle fruits filled with jelly, “pumpkin” fruit; a teardrop shaped fruit with flesh the colour of pumpkin and taste of pumpkin pie and wild cardamom berries (quite possibly the most delicious, aromatic fruit ever).
  4. Luang Namtha's market - the meat sectionThe meat section: Live fishes in small ponds is one thing but the butchery section has an impressive selection of  offal and curdled blood jelly. It is amazing to see that no piece of animal goes to waste and if you are feeling peckish for that pigs face or water buffalo foot it can be found here. Vegetarians will rejoice in their choice of diet after visiting the Luang Namtha fresh market meat section; not to be missed.
  5. The Chinese market: Located behind and to the right of the fresh market is the Processed food from ChinaChinese market where you can buy cheap chinese clothes, toys and electrical goods priced for the Laos market. The fashions are hilarious and most items break on first or second use. Worth a visit for the amusement factor.

Even after being here almost 2 years, we still see jungle fruits we’ve never seen before, vegetables that are out of this world, and parts of animal anatomy that we’d rather not see.  The fresh market is always an adventure and highly recommended!


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