The freshest salad there ever was, this Luang Prabang salad is packed with tons of herbs and paired with a creamy sweet and sour dressing, inspired by my recent trip to Laos.One of the reasons I love traveling (and there are many) is that I always return with new inspiration for blog recipes. I love being able to bring back a taste of my adventures abroad (like my Slow Cooker Greek Baked Beans and Greek Salmon Gyros with Beet Tzatziki) and share them with you and I love the challenge of recreating my favorite global dishes in the comfort of my own kitchen. I have so much to tell you about my recent travels to Vietnam and Laos and don’t worry there will be plenty of posts to follow recapping our trip but today I’m kicking off my trips down memory lane with a favorite Laotian recipe.
It’s funny. We almost didn’t go to Laos. Originally, we were going to tag Bali onto our Vietnam trip or rather tag Vietnam onto our Bali trip. We booked our RT flight to Ho Chi Minh City with the intention of visiting Bali too (flights through Saigon were cheaper than Bali). But as I started to do more research on the details of our trip and itinerary, I realized that Bali wasn’t thaaaaaat close to Vietnam. Sure, they’re on the same side of the map but traveling there and back was going to eat up two whole days of our trip. Many travel forums said to couple Vietnam with other countries that were closer like Thailand, Cambodia or Laos. I’d already been to Thailand and Cambodia and even though they were both amazing, I really wanted to explore a new country.A few years ago when I was in Thailand and thinking about extending my travels (I didn’t because you know…#funemployment), a friend told me all about Laos and how it was her favorite country in Southeast Asia because it was the least tapped by tourism. She spoke of its beauty and relaxing vibe and I’ve been intrigued ever since. When I mentioned Laos to my husband, he’d never heard anything about it and was slightly skeptical (“what’s there to see besides a waterfall?!”) but after presenting my case, he agreed and am SO happy he did because Laos was actually our favorite stop of the entire trip. It’s true and although we spent the majority of our trip exploring Vietnam, we wished we would’ve had more time in Laos. Guess we have a reason to go back again!
I’m going to write a separate blog post all about our time in Luang Prabang, Laos so I won’t get into the nitty gritty right now of what we did there and why I love it so much but I will tell you about about its food culture. Laotian food is a beautifully kept secret that I want to preserve so it stays special but also want to open up 10 Laotian restaurants so I can eat it every damn day.I’d describe it as a mix between Thai and Vietnamese food – really all of these cuisines have overlap and similarities because of their close proximity to one another. In fact, certain dishes that are Laotian in origin have been adopted in Thailand and many refer to them as Thai dishes (like sticky rice, laap and papaya salad) when in fact they are Laotian. Lao food has the lightness of Vietnamese cuisine (with no heavy curries or coconut milks) with the spicy component of Thai food.
Lao food is everything – bitter, spicy, sour, salty and umami. Lots of lemongrass, galangal (like ginger) and paadek, which is a fermented fish sauce. It’s so fresh and satiating yet light enough that you don’t feel sluggish afterwards. It’s nourishing and energizing. My mouth is literally watering just thinking about it.
The first full day we were in Laos, we set out in the morning, aka the scorching heat (it got up to 102 degrees F while we were there) to explore the beautiful Buddhist temples that line the streets of Luang Prabang. After 2-3 hours of walking around, I had sweated out every ounce of liquid in me and was ready for some replenishment. We made our way to a cafe/bakery we spotted the night before at the night market which had a delicious looking display of fresh croissants, pastries and breads out front (since Laos was once owned by France, there are still remnants of French culture in terms of architecture and…bread).But since we were so hot, we opted for some cooling foods for lunch – a mango banana smoothie and a Luang Prabang salad, oh, and we also got a freshly baked baguette to share, obvs. The Luang Prabang salad description on the menu read something like egg, tomato, cucumber and dill – it totally undersold itself. This salad was the most beautiful salad I’d ever laid eyes on. With a sea of tomatoes and cucumbers and egg bordering the rim of the plate, the middle was piled high with fresh lettuce, watercress and herbs GALORE. And then the dressing! Sweet and sour with fish sauce, lime sugar and wait for it…EGG YOLK! Which makes it all the more creamy and delicious. This salad is pretty easy to recreate at home although it does call for a number of herbs but hey, you can always customize based on what you’ve got on hand.
I’ve been eating this salad on repeat this week because it’s NO LONGER WINTER, YAY! I know some of you have been celebrating this for a while now but when I left for my trip it was still winter weather so I’m still giddy over here that I can make salads and smoothies and use spring veggies and say goodbye to root veggies until next winter. So enjoy the warmer spring weather by eating all the herbs in this ultra fresh, ultra unique tasting salad with all the flavors – bitter, sour, salty and sweet – because Laotians wouldn’t have it any other way.
- One head green lettuce, chopped
- 2 tomatoes, sliced
- 1 cucumber, sliced
- 1 bunch watercress (2 ounces)
- 1 handful cilantro, torn (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 handful mint leaves (about 1/3 cup)
- 1 handful dill, torn (about 1/3 cup)
- 3 green onions, sliced, green parts only (about 1/3 cup)
- 4 hard boiled eggs, sliced*
- 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 limes, juiced (about 3-4 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 hard boiled egg
- 3 hard boiled egg yolks*
- Toss together lettuce, watercress and fresh herbs. Add tomatoes, cucumbers and sliced egg. Top with peanuts and dressing.
- Blend all ingredients together in a blender until creamy. Serve with salad.
*If you want to save on the number of eggs used in this recipe, you can use the egg whites only in the salad and then only the egg yolks in the dressing. If you do that you'll only need 4 hard boiled eggs total, separating the egg whites for the salad and yolk for the dressing.
Tell me, have you ever tried Laotian food before?