Tired and hungry after our 2 day boat journey down the Mekong river, we had finally arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos and were desperate for some comfort food, Laos style! Boy were we in for a treat.We made our way to the heart of the action, the central market where all manner of Laos style trinkets and garments could be bartered over with the enthusiastic and insistent sellers.Nearby, a small lane cuts away from the main street, leading you down an alleyway which is an attack on the senses. On the corner of the main street and the lane, two small stands cloud the entrance in smoke, as the fat and juices from kebabs cooking on the BBQs obscure the lane. The smell is intoxicating, spices and aromas attacking us as we pass through the smoke.
In front of us, a veritable delight of culinary delights lay in wait. Eager locals stand prepared with a plastic plate as you push and shove your way down the alley. “Fill this plate with as much food as you can! All for one set price!” one eager chef barks. Across from him an energetic old lady is currently grilling whole fish, which for a small add on charge is yours to have.Overwhelmed, we carry on through the throng of locals and travellers alike, all hunched around small plastic tables, perched on plastic stools eagerly shovelling the assortment of vegetables, noodles, rices and meats with varying degrees of chopstick accuracy. All washed down with a litre bottle of Beer Lao. Old and new friendships are formed as you battle to grab a seat as we continue down the lane.
Reaching the end of the lane, we take stock and try to figure out which stall to go too. The old woman with the whole fish option is deemed the best, and we squeeze our way back towards the beginning of the lane to load up our plates with mounds of Laotian food.We reach our host, plate thrust into our hands and with our fish chosen, we’re free to fill our plates with all the wonders of Lao food. I step up to the table, on goes a pile of noodles, some spring rolls, perhaps some green beans in some sort of sauce, a sausage might go down well, ah there’s some dumplings. And prawn crackers! The choice is incredible, my plate not capable of supporting all that I wish to take.With a plate full of food in one hand, a plate of fish in the other, Laura grabs the beer and her food and we crush into a corner where two others are already sitting. Time to taste our haul, and we’ve made the right decision it seems! The spring rolls are delicious, perhaps owed to the fat and grease that surrounds them. The noodles incredible, the fish succulent and fresh. Our plates are devoured in minutes, and then we’re off, out of the madness of the lane and back into the main streets.
We’d waited two days for a decent meal, but boy had it been worth it. Our Laos odyssey had begun.