How to serve a Lao meal
Updated: Jan 2
Traditionally Lao people used to eat either on the floor on a mat or at a braided low table.
The meal can be composed either of a single dish -such as a noodle soup- or a composition of dishes served at the same time. The meal is not served in a succession of courses as in the West.
As for noodle soup, each guest receives an individual bowl, spoon and chopsticks. It is customary to eat all the solid ingredients of the soup but you are not required to drink all the broth. Paradoxically, noodle soups are the only dishes where chopsticks are used.
A multi-dish meal consists of at least rice -mostly sticky rice- a main course, a soup and a dip sauce. It is common to add a plate of unseasoned vegetables. The food is placed in the center of the table. Each guest receives a plate, a spoon and possibly a fork - Lao people eat, just like their Thai neighbors, with a spoon and fork and not with chopsticks-. In the family sphere, there is no cutlery in the dishes and the soup is a dish like any other, placed in the center of the table in which each person can pick with his own spoon. The sticky rice is placed in a woven basket and is always eaten with the hands, in the same way a Westerner would do with bread. Jasmin rice is eaten with a spoon and a fork, the fork being used to push the food into the spoon before it is brought to the mouth. On more festive occasions, the soup will be served in small individual bowls and cutlery will also be placed in each dish. It is not usual to move a plate to help yourself, it is why the dishes are multiplied and distributed in such a way as to be directly accessible to all guests.
Meat and fish can be served in the same meal. Apart from soup, which must be hot, food is usually served lukewarm to make it easier to eat with the hands and sticky rice.