Cooking in Luang Prabang

Eggs - Phousy Market - Luang Prabang
Barbecue Fish - Phousy Market - Luang Prabang

My best day in Luang Prabang was spent taking a cooking class, taught by a young Hmong man named Ning who was accomplished and sure in the kitchen. Along with three other students (a couple from Heidelberg and a guy from Belgium who works for EUROPOL), I paid $25 for the chance to immerse myself in Lao cuisine from 10am to 6pm. We began with a trip to Phousy Market, the central shopping location for all of Luang Prabang’s residents (excluding the hordes of tourists), where we bought some necessary ingredients and snacks for break-time munching and, more importantly, had a quick but thorough lesson in some of the crucial components of Lao cooking. After a half-hour tour, we boarded a tuk tuk and headed back to the hut that acts as the classroom for the Three Elephants Cafe cooking school.

Woman selling blood - Phousy Market - Luang Prabang
Palm sugar sweets

Back at the school, we started off with some palm-sugar sweets and Lao coffee while Ning and his assistant did some prep work. When the mise-en-place was set, the four of us came inside for a demonstration of the two dishes we were to cook that morning for our lunch. We began with a dish that required more composition than cooking, per se: a Luang Prabang Salad, which consisted of cucumber, tomato, hard-boiled eggs, pork and cilantro arranged over a mound of mixed lettuce greens and dressed with an intriguing mayonnaise made by pulverizing hard-boiled yolks as opposed to the traditional raw-egg base. The salad was quite refreshing, though I picked around the eggs, as the hard-boiled variety have never appealed to me–although as a child I often made my mom cook them for me just so I’d have the chance to play with our egg slicer.

Luang Prabang Salad
Fried noodles with chicken, egg, and vegetables

The other dish that was to serve as lunch was one that I anticipate making at home not infrequently: Fried Noodles with chicken, egg, and green vegetables. This dish was not only both simple and quick to prepare but also quite delicious and distinctly more authentic than just about any Asian noodles available in New York.

Longan fruit
Frying jaew bong chili paste

After lunch we watched Ning show us how to make five more dishes, of which we were to choose three to replicate ourselves, in addition to the proper techniques for steaming sticky rice (the Lao staple food) and jaew bong chili paste, the variety of that omnipresent condiment native to the region around Luang Prabang.

Frying massive amounts of garlic
Purple sticky rice

We came to a consensus on two of the choices, but the other three students all agreed on the third dish, while I dissented, hoping to perfect the green bean salad that can so easily be transformed–using cucumber, green papaya, or mango–into a healthy, tasty, and versatile standby. Since everyone else wanted to make the pork and egg stew, however, and since we were snacking on longan fruit while trying to make this decision (and that after an unusually hearty lunch!), I just went with the flow.

Banana flowers, lemongrass, and limes
Green bean salad

There is a reason that we all concurred about the other two dishes–chicken laap and eggplant with minced pork are some of the most typical Lao dishes, and certainly among the most toothsome. The laap is invigorating on a hot day, and evokes the jungle with all its wild greenery, while the pork and eggplant satisfy with their savory bath of oyster sauce.

Eggplant and pork
Dinner at cooking class

Recipes upon request–considering these photos, I’m expecting to hear from you!

Ingredients for jaew bong chili paste
Chicken laap

Posted by on November 27th, 2006


Nikeroo said

December 18, 2006 @ 8:54 am

Wow, your pics are making me hungry!!

Peggy said

January 14, 2007 @ 7:18 pm

Hi, amazing these dishes….can you send me the recipes ? Do you know if it is possible to do half day cooking ?

Ali said

January 15, 2007 @ 1:42 am

Hi Peggy,

I’ll try to post the recipes on here sometime in the next week or so. I don’t think it’s possible to do a half-day of cooking at this school, but there are a couple of other restaurants in Luang Prabang that offer cooking classes, so maybe one of them offers a half-day course.

Karen said

February 2, 2007 @ 12:14 am

Hope you will post recipes. Am particularly hoping to replicate the jeow bong (though I don’t know where to find the buffalo skin around here!)


February 15, 2007 @ 1:28 am

That looks like a fantastic experience. I am starting a culinary tour in Sichuan for Americans who have not yet tasted how things can get. I would love to hear everyone’s opinions about what they would love to see in such a tour!

Ali said

February 18, 2007 @ 8:27 am

That sounds like a terrific tour! I’m actually heading off to Flushing (New York’s biggest Chinatown) for some Sichuan food to ring in the New Year. I’ve been meaning to check out this place called Spicy and Tasty…hopefully it’ll prove to be both! What are your ideas for the tour so far? I’ve been to a few places in Sichuan, and hotpot on a rainy evening in Songpan stands out among my culinary experiences there….

Tony said

February 25, 2007 @ 2:56 am

Hi there! Just stumbled upon this site. This Lao food looks fantastic! Can you send me the recipes?


Ali said

March 3, 2007 @ 9:30 am

Hey Tony,

I’ve been meaning to post them on here for ages now. I’ll try to get on that, since it seems like lots of people would like to see them :).



July 9, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

sabaydee, as you mentioned, there are also other possibilities to take cooking lessons in Luang Prabang, Laos. Maybe you can try our school next time – the first cooking school in Laos. Details under – there is the old version of the site on line at the moment, new one under construction with more and better info for you ! sok dee ! peter, at the moment at home in vienna, austria

ayami maitoko said

December 6, 2007 @ 4:20 pm

hello,I’m going to Laos next February and interested in cooking class. How many days and when do you start the class? If I apply the class,are there any accomodation around there? And How much is it for the class?Thank you.

yurrrrrrrrp said

March 27, 2008 @ 10:24 am

Hello. My nationality is Laotian, what a coincidence!…Actually, I just typed in Laos in the tastespotting search. Anyway, I love purple sticky rice but I don’t even know how to make it. I know how to make regular sticky rice, though. Is it very similar? How do ya do it?

12 just h ome from Luang Prabang and looking for pork and eggplant recipe can you please send? Thanks! said

March 1, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

I am just back from Luang Prabang and looking (without much success) for a pork and eggplant recipe. Can you please send yours!


May 27, 2009 @ 8:25 am

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