Often squeezed out by the cuisine of its neighbors, Laos offers its own menu worth exploring, writes Duncan Forgan, who goes on a historic tasting binge in Luang Prabang.
The evening starts civilized with Lao-inspired cocktails at the edge of UNESCO-listed lotus ponds at Manda de Lao. Proceedings, though, quickly take a turn for the bawdy. At a nameless riverside venue, I’m presented with a plate of crunchy deep-fried crickets dug up fresh that morning from a Mekong beach.
With the main restaurant area overlooking three lotus ponds—a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995—there are few more atmospheric spots for fine dining in Luang Prabang. Its predominantly well-heeled tourist audience means a slight toning down of the more robust edges of Lao cuisine. Still, potent cocktails and crowd-pleasers such as ping dook moo (pork ribs cooked sous-vide and spiked with galangal, lemongrass and honey) befit the ambience. mandadelaos.com; meal for two from US$50.