an expat's guide to non-Lao food in Luang Prabang

If you’re looking for how to spend your time in Luang Prabang, you’re likely looking for where to eat too, am I right? Well then, you’ve come to the right place!

I’m all for eating the local cuisine. For one thing, it’s delicious. Sticky rice, jeow bong, and hot noodle soup— yes, please! Then, there’s the cultural factor. I firmly believe that food is a reflection of culture, so if you’re like me and want to understand the places I travel more deeply, learning about the food is a key component of that understanding. Finally, it’s much cheaper. Where you might pay USD $5 for falafel pita here, you’ll pay USD $1.66 for a heaping plate of yellow noodles with veggies and chilis.

However, understandably, when you live or stay anywhere long enough you may need a little variety. There have been days when I have woken up and just known I wasn’t going to have Fer {the Lao word for noodle soup} for dinner because it was a pizza kind of day. Just like I’ve had military friends stationed in Japan that have said, “As much as I love sushi, some days you need a burger.”

What’s available in Luang Prabang is a little limited in comparison to other Asian destinations, but most people are surprised to learn that Luang Prabang has its own take on Mexican food, Indian curries, pizza, and burgers {both vegetarian and carnivorous} to offer its guests.


On those days when “you need a burger”, I’ve made a list of places to get your non-lao food fix


NISHA’S INDIAN RESTAURANT

Nisha’s Indian Restaurant is located not far from the main street and night market. It’s the perfect place for delicious curries at decent prices. The fluorescent lighting and metal tables in the restaurant might look a little less than appealing, but don’t be put off by a lack of millennial pink paint and shameless Instagram marketing— the food here speaks for itself. The staff at Nisha’s are super friendly, especially if you visit every once and a while and give them a smile. Their menu is vegetarian friendly and I highly recommend the Aloo Mutter with a Garlic Naan and a Big Beer Lao. All up it will cost you 34,000 kip {USD $3.97} and you will leave full— you have my word!

OPENING HOURS: Monday- Sunday from 9 AM- 10 PM

SIDE NOTE: While my photo may not make the food look appetizing, take it as evidence to how good the food is that I forgot completely to take a photo before eating my fill.

GARLIC NAAN, ALOO MUTTER, PALAK CHICKEN FROM NISHA’S

GARLIC NAAN, ALOO MUTTER, PALAK CHICKEN FROM NISHA’S

AMIGO’S

Anyone who follows my Instagram stories knows that on a Tuesday or Thursday in Luang Prabang I’m almost definitely enjoying the half-priced tacos at Amigo’s. The price point and quality of Amigo’s is unbeatable. For 25,000 kip you can have any two soft shell tacos. While it’s not exactly the kind of Mexican cuisine I came to know through my friend, Alma, it is delicious and I’ve never had a meal at Amigo’s I didn’t like. I’m a regular for the vegetarian tacos, but I’ve also tried their vegetarian burritos, veggie nachos, and cabbage enchiladas {which I know sound weird but, trust me, they are soooooo yum} and never once have I been let down. Amigo’s is owned by Pike and Alicia, a couple with two beautiful daughters you’ll likely see having fun under the twinkly lights of the outdoor seating area. They’ve also just rolled out new specials including Fajita Fridays and Sangria Saturdays, both of which will leave your stomach as happy as your wallet. Amigo’s is truly like getting a warm hug in the form of food and atmosphere when you just need tacos in your life.

OPENING HOURS: Monday-Saturday from 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM and 5:00 PM - 10:00 PM, closed on Sundays

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AUSSIE BAR {THE SPORTS BAR}

From Bali to Bangkok, there seems to always be an Irish Pub and an Australian Sports Bar in every town I visit, despite me wishing this wasn’t consistently the case. Typically, I would tell you to avoid Australian Sports Bars across Southeast Asia altogether and opt for local establishments that feed the economy at the local level. Aussie Bar in Luang Prabang has a delicious {albeit highly-priced} vegetarian burger that always hits the spot. They also do chicken and beef burgers, all of which are served on a toasted bun alongside a generous portion of fries. I’ve often visited the Aussie Bar after a long week for a Big Beer Lao, a veggie burger, and New Zealand cricket or All Blacks’ Rugby streaming on the many wall televisions. It should also be noted that Aussie Bar serves up a full English Breakfast, though I’ve never tried it so I can’t speak to its quality.

OPENING HOURS: Monday-Sunday from 7 AM - 11:30 PM

POPOLO CANTINA

Popolo is possibly one of the most photo-worthy eateries in Luang Prabang. Serving woodfire pizza, Spanish tapas, and a bevy of cocktails, Popolo is new on the food scene in Luang Prabang, but is quickly making a name for itself. If you don’t fancy a feed, go for the low-light and industrial-style bar. Outdoor seating in a courtyard lit with twinkly string lights and rattan chairs makes this place extra dreamy. I would also personally recommend a mocktail if, like me, you’re avoiding alcohol to fix up your skin. The lime, guava, and soda water concoction I had was AMAZING.

OPENING HOURS: Monday-Sunday from 11 AM- 11 PM

a guide to non-lao food for expats
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popolo cantina in Luang Prabang

SECRET PIZZA

Secret Pizza is no real secret. In fact, it’s the most famous place for pizza in Luang Prabang. Tourists have all heard of the Italian owned-and-operated and so have the very few bloggers who visit town. It’s popularity makes sense given the perfectly cooked wood-fire crust, the imported cheese and sauce, and the blend of spices and toppings. Secret Pizza does deliver, which is good for those who might want to spend a night inside their beautiful Luang Prabang hotel or eco-resort. I prefer the pizza at Pizza Phan Luang, but I do think Secret Pizza is top-notch and well worth the expense for a little slice of Italy on your plate.

OPENING HOURS: Tuesdays and Fridays from 6 PM

PIZZA PHAN LUANG

Pizza Phan Luang is my absolute favourite pizza in the city and, if we’re taking it a step further, my favourite restaurant in Luang Prabang. That might seem like a big call to make, but once you experience the ambience of Pizza Phan Luang you’ll understand. Candlelight tables in the back garden of the owners’ home provide seating for a limited amount of people and the crackle of the wood-fire oven is the accompanying soundtrack for a special evening out. A Canadian man and his wife, It is entirely possible that part of my adoration for this place is that it’s a special occasion when I eat here: a fancy date night or a celebration of a project completed.

OPENING HOURS: It’s tricky to know the opening hours of Pizza Phan Luang. My best advice is to arrive after 6PM and hope it’s open.

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OPERA HOUSE

Opera House is owned by Phout and Marco, two friends of mine who run multiple eating establishments around town. Opera House has recently rebranded and now serves up Mediterranean-style food, including chicken kebabs and a falafel board. The falafel comes drizzled in a traditional Lebanese sauce akin to Tahini, made by a Lebanese chef. Luke said the chicken kebabs were the best he’s ever had and we both left Opera House with fuller stomachs and emptier wallets.

OPENING HOURS: Saturday- Thursday 1 PM–11:30 PM, Friday 5–11:30 PM

SAFFRON COFFEE

Saffron Coffee has more than just ethically-sourced espresso on the menu. Falafel wraps, gingerbread pancakes, paninis, and salads all await you in the Mekong Riverside café. I can personally attest to every vegetarian-friendly option on their menu being served fresh and tasting absolutely delicious {particularly the falafel}. Saffron has created quirky spins on classic café fare that honors its base in Laos while effortlessly infusing a Western kick— like, for instance, in the case of its coconut mango waffles.

OPENING HOURS: Monday- Friday from 6:15 AM - 7:30 PM, Saturday - Sunday from 7:15 AM - 4:30 PM

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MAOLIN TAVERN

Maolin Tavern is a new-ish bar and restaurant in Luang Prabang that’s frequented by expats in need of a unique environment to have a beer {or two} and grub down. The food is sort of a strange combination of some Lao snacks but Western dishes like steak, mussels, and cheese boards. Usually, I avoid places that do too much as it’s usually a sign they don’t specialize in anything, but everyone who goes to Maolin, myself included, enjoys the atmosphere and the food. There’s a special on every day of the week, so be sure to pop your head in and look at the deals on their board near the bar!

OPENING HOURS: Monday from 4 PM- 11:30 PM, Tuesday-Sunday from 10 AM- 11:30 PM

DEXTER

Dexter sticks out on main street due to its black and white tiles, outdoor seating for two, and open restaurant front. It’s “Instagrammable” without a doubt, but it’s worth a visit for more than a photo. The beautiful aesthetic is matched by its delicious food. Honestly, the veggie burger at Dexter', which comes with a house Wasabi sauce and a heaping pail of fries is something I continually crave. Unfortunately, Dexter’s prices are as high as the quality of food they make— meaning a burger here is more a “celebratory/date night thing” and less an “every day lunch thing.” Their fruity breakfast pancake stack is also high on my list of favourites.

OPENING HOURS: Monday-Sunday from 7:30 AM- 10 PM

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below is a map of the eateries FROM THIS POST


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where to find non-lao foods in Luang Prabang, Laos
a food guide: where to find non-lao food in Luang Prabang