Photo: Pak Ou caves.

Local breakfasts in Luang Prabang

Local breakfasts in Luang Prabang

Most hotels in Luang Prabang include breakfast with the room rate and even small guesthouses usually serve basic baguette, Lao coffee and some fruit. The town has some yummy and cheap local morning eats so it’d be a pity if you didn’t venture away from the hotel at least once to try one of these breakfast dishes.

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You’ve got to try it!

Khao piak khao is a Lao favorite. This thick rice soup (called khao tom in Thailand) usually comes with pork, scallions, crisp deep-fried garlic, slivers of ginger and cilantro. To make it heartier, ask to add a poached egg or egg hardboiled in soy sauce (khai) and get deep-fried dough fritters for dipping. Once the steaming bowl arrives, locals add condiments like a chemist: lime juice, chillies, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, MSG, ubiquitous Maggi sauce and whatever else is available on the table. Our absolute favourite is the alleyway stand on the main street across from Wat Mai. Her khao piak khao does contain cubes of pig blood but if that doesn’t appeal to you, just ask for it without. It’s only 10,000 kip and be quick. With just a few rickety tables and chairs, it usually sells out by 09:30, and the deep fried dough sells out hours before that.

Rain or shine, cold weather or blistering heat, noodle soup is a popular choice for breakfast in Luang Prabang. There are several types to choose from.

Luang Prabang khao soi is a must try if you eat pork. It’s a flat, wide ride noodle topped with a bolognese of mince meat, fermented soy beans, tomato and chillies. Don’t be alarmed by the red colour, that’s the tomato and not chilli. Hands down the best khao soi is at the shop on the main road across from Wat Senesoukharam. Arrive before 10:00 to avoid disappointment, as they sell out fast. There’s plenty of stands in the morning market. You can also try it at Muang Sing Khao Soi restaurant on Phou Vao Rd, close to the intersection with Mano Rd. This shop is open all day.

Also on Phou Vao Rd is a super tasty Lao version of pho. This unnamed shop does it with crispy pork and an aromatic bone broth, served with herbs and jeow sukee, a satay-like dipping sauce. The bowl is worth the 20,000 kip and the journey over before it sells out around 12:30. Find it directly across from the Finance Department. Note that it is usually closed on weekends. Otherwise, almost every noodle shop, including the khao soi shop across from Wat Senesoukharam, does Lao pho.

Not to be confused with rice soup, khao piak is a noodle soup with thick handmade rice flour noodles and a delicious broth. Again, part of the fun is all the condiments and fixings like bean sprouts, poached egg, deep-fried garlic and crunchy rice crackers for dipping. Xiengthong Noodle is one of the most popular in town given its main street location, the menu board in multiple languages and the price: only 12,000 kip for a bowl with pork and egg. Opened 07:00 until 14:00.

Find the shop almost at the tip of the peninsula, across from Queen Design.

A favourite local khao piak is at a low-key shop across from Frangipani Spa, on the road running between 3 Nagas on the main street and the Mekong. Mama tops noodle soup with crispy pork, fried shallots and add a poached egg, 15,000 kip.

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Khao piak noodle soup with pork and an egg is simple and ridiculously good.

You’ll also find tasty Lao versions of Vietnamese classics in Luang Prabang like khao ji pate (known as banh mi in Vietnam), baguette sandwiches filled with mystery cold cuts, pate, mayonnaise, cilantro and pickled veg. It’s an odd East-meets-French combination but somehow it works. Look for the stands early in the morning on Kitsalat Road near Dara Market or the baguette ladies making their rounds in local neighbourhoods.

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A hearty vegetarian dish for only 10,000 kip.

The corner breakfast stand at the junction of the Mekong River and Kitsalat Road (near the morning market) is a Luang Prabang institution. It’s a one-stop shop for a Lao-style banh mi, soup and Lao coffee, which is boiled strong and filtered through a cloth sock-filter. Copious amounts of sweet evaporated milk is added, not unlike Vietnamese coffee.

Finally, in between the piles of fresh vegetables, raw meat and fish, the morning market is peppered with little nibbles from savoury steamed things to deep fried sweet things that locals eat at any time of day.

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