Must-Try Restaurants in Luang Prabang

Laotian cuisine is vibrant and flavorful; however, it is often overlooked compared to neighboring cuisines, such as Thai and Vietnamese. There are many solid restaurants in Luang Prabang that showcase traditional cuisine as well as international flavors. Below is a list of restaurants where we had excellent meals during our four-day stay in Luang Prabang this year.

Things to Know in Advance

If you like Thai food, I think you will also enjoy Lao food. Many flavors in Laotian cuisine are quite similar to Thai cuisine due to the use of some similar staple ingredients, such as lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, mint, fish sauce, tamarind, and chili peppers.

People in Laos share meals, similar to the communal dining aspects of many other Asian cultures. I saw that a lot of foreign visitors often ordered individual rice plates. For a better experience, I suggest ordering several dishes to share. It’s how the cuisine is traditionally served and it will allow you to sample a greater variety of dishes.

The town of Luang Prabang is known for its slow pace, which also extends to its dining experiences. Don’t be too surprised if the wait for your food is longer than what you might be used to in your home country or other countries. We often had to wait from 20-45 minutes for our food. If your schedule is tightly packed, you may find yourself having a rushed meal.

I wouldn’t say the food in Luang Prabang is expensive, but it is not exactly cheap compared to some other places in Southeast Asia. Our cheapest meal was at a local noodle shop and each bowl cost less than $2. At nicer restaurants, we paid about $20-$25 on average for a meal for two. Some places accept payments in US dollar and Thai baht.

Another thing you should know is most eateries in Luang Prabang don’t run air-conditioners (at least during our visit in February). They often have a terrace where some dining tables are set up. The indoor dining room often has opened windows and use fans for cooling and ventilation. The temperature was quite pleasant during our trip so we didn’t mind it too much.

interior of Taste of Ceylon restaurant in Luang Prabang.
Typical open setting of restaurants in Luang Prabang

Here’s our list of the top places to eat in Luang Prabang. I will also mention the dishes we ordered and enjoyed at each place.

Bamboo Garden Restaurant

  • πŸ“: Google Maps
  • Highlights: home-style cooking, Luang Prabang sausages and larb

Bamboo Garden was the first restaurant we visited, and it did give us a very good initial impression of the food in Luang Prabang. This small restaurant is owned and managed by a couple, with the husband responsible for front of house and the wife in charge of the kitchen. The husband could speak English and he gave us some good recommendations. The food is more home-style cooking than restaurant-style.

We highly recommend the Luang Prabang sausages at Bamboo Garden. Lao sausages are made from ground meat mixed with aromatics herbs like lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. This dish is a must-try in Luang Prabang and after tasting it at several restaurants, we liked the one at Bamboo Garden the most. They browned the sausages very well, giving it a crisp exterior and irresistible aroma.

a plate of Luang Prabang sausages at Bamboo Garden, one of the must-try restaurants in Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang sausages

Another dish we liked here is larb, a traditional Lao dish made from ground meat mixed with lime juice, fish sauce, mint, and roasted ground rice. The larb dish at Bamboo Garden is very flavorful with a deep savory taste, plenty of tanginess from lime juice and refreshing note from mint. This dish is on the salty side so we ate it with some rice.

a plate of Larb at Bamboo Garden restaurant in Luang Prabang.
Larb
a bowl of tom yum soup at Bamboo Garden restaurant.
Tom yum soup

We also ordered tom yum soup and stir-fried morning glory, both of which were decent. For two people, I recommend ordering 3-4 dishes to share. The prices were very reasonable. You can stop by this restaurant for a meal after visiting the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center and Wat Wisunarat nearby.

Cafe Toui

  • πŸ“: Google Maps
  • Highlights: steamed fish, grilled chicken, curry

Cafe Toui is just a 5-minute walk from the National Museum. This restaurant has a quite extensive menu and it took us some time to decide what to order. Our food was pretty delicious but came out after 30 minutes of waiting. We had scheduled an activity for the afternoon, so our lunch was a bit rushed.

steamed fish in banana leaves at Cafe Toui, a must-eat place in Luang Prabang.
Steamed fish in banana leaves at Cafe Toui

We ordered mok pa (steamed fish in banana leaves) which is another must-try dish in Luang Prabang. The mok pa version at Cafe Toui reminded me of the fish amok we tried in Siem Reap. The fish (boneless) was mixed with herbs and coconut milk, creating something like a custard-like layer around the piece of fish. Once cooked, it was tender, juicy, and flavorful.

Another dish we liked was the grilled chicken on lemongrass, which was also very flavorful. The portions at Cafe Toui were pretty generous, and I felt that 2 main meat or fish dishes plus a smaller dish (like an appetizer or side) should be enough for two.

a plate of grilled chicken on lemongrass at Cafe Toui.
Grilled chicken

Tamarind

Tamarind is a popular restaurant in Luang Prabang, located on Kingkitsarath Road facing the Nam Khan River which is a quieter area in the historic district. The menu is extensive and it also includes some pages explaining the flavors and the eating culture of Laotian cuisine. This restaurant also offers cooking classes if you want to learn more about the cuisine.

Overall, we think the food is quite good, however it somehow wasn’t as memorable as what we tried at Bamboo Garden and Cafe Toui. I recommend trying mok pa, which was prepared slightly different from the version at Cafe Toui.

mok pa steam fish in banana leaves at Tamarind, one of the best restaurants in Luang Prabang.
Steamed fish in banana leaves at Tamarind restaurant

The fish wasn’t mixed with coconut milk so there wasn’t a custard-like layer surrounding the fish. This method gave more attention to the fish itself, which was very fresh and juicy. I was afraid that river fish might have a strong fishy smell, but with the use of local herbs and banana leaves, it turned out very aromatic.

Other dishes we ordered were Luang Prabang sausages and buffalo larb. Having tried the sausages at Bamboo Garden, I found the ones at Tamarind to be less aromatic. The buffalo larb could have used a bit more mint and lime juice.

a plate of Luang Prabang sausages at Tamarind restaurant.
Luang Prabang sausages
a plate of buffalo larb at Tamarin restaurant.
Buffalo larb

Ock Pop Tok Silk Road Cafe

  • πŸ“: Google Maps
  • Highlights: Mekong River view, fried fish with tamarind sauce

This restaurant is located inside the Ock Pop Tok Living Craft Center, about a 10-minute drive from the historic district. We booked a taxi/car by using a local app called Loca to get there. You can also take a tuk-tuk, which can be found on almost every street in Luang Prabang.

We initially only planned to visit Ock Pop Tok to learn more about local crafts and buy some quality handicraft souvenirs. Then we saw that their restaurant is right by the Mekong River with a beautiful view, so we decided to have dinner there.

view of Mekong River at Ock Pop Tok Silk Road Cafe, a must-try place in Luang Prabang.
View of Mekong River from Silk Road Cafe

It was a cloudy day so there was no sunset, but the setting was incredibly relaxing and laid-back. We were happy to get away from the vehicle noise and exhaust fumes in the town center. If you are looking for a serene place to chill by the river or watch the sunset, the Silk Road Cafe at Ock Pop Tok is among the top choices.

The food was quite good, but we experienced the longest wait for food during our entire trip. There was a group of about 15 tourists having dinner at the same time. As a result, we had to wait for 45 minutes. I got the Thai-style chicken khao soi, quite tasty but I would have preferred it to be a bit richer and more fragrant with coconut milk. The crispy fried fish with tamarind sauce was the highlight of our meal.

a bowl of Thai khao soi served at Ock Pop Tok Silk Road Cafe in Luang Prabang.
Thai chicken khao soi
a plate of crispy fried fish with tamarind sauce at Ock Pop Tok Silk Road Cafe in Luang Prabang.
Fried fish with tamarind sauce

Taste of Ceylon

  • πŸ“: Google Maps
  • Highlights: chicken tikka masala, kottu roti

This Sri Lankan restaurant is just a 5-minute walk from the Angsana Hotel, where we stayed. Given its high reviews, we decided to give it a try, and the food didn’t disappoint. The restaurant is owned by a father-and-son team. The son took our order and provided recommendations based on our preferences.

We really liked the chicken tikka masala which was full of flavors but not overly strong. The meat was tender but not mushy. Another delicious dish was the kottu roti, a Sri Lankan dish suggested by the owner. Kottu (chopped roti) was cooked with chicken, vegetables, and a lot of aromatic spices. Having never tried it before and unsure of what to expect, we found it to be an excellent dish.

a plate of chicken tikka masala at Taste of Ceylon restaurant in Luang Prabang.
Taste of Ceylon
a bowl of kottu roti at Taste of Ceylon restaurant in Luang Prabang.
Kottu roti

The samosas, however, were a bit underwhelming, both in terms of the filling and the exterior. Overall, Taste of Ceylon is an excellent choice if you need to take a break from Laotian cuisine.

Nang Tao

  • πŸ“: Google Maps
  • Highlights: local eatery, khao soi

We went to this humble local eatery after our Mekong sunset cruise. All the diners we came across at other restaurants in Luang Prabang were international tourists, but we finally saw some Laotians at Nang Tao. If you don’t mind eating in a modest setting, give this place a try and support the locals.

Since we had had some snacks and small plates on the cruise, each of us ordered a bowl of noodle soup. Each bowl cost less than $2, so cheap! I had Laotian khao soi which was quite a delight. Laotian khao soi is not the same as Thai khao soi. It is a noodle soup consisting of wide rice noodles in a clear broth. The topping includes ground pork or chicken and is garnished with fresh herbs, and an aromatic, slightly spicy tomato-based paste.

a bowl of Lao khao soi at Nang Tao eatery in Luang Prabang.
Lao khao soi
a bowl of Lao beef noodle soup at Nang Tao in Luang Prabang.

Long ordered a bowl of beef noodle soup, and he liked it too. However, if you could only choose one, I would recommend the khao soi.

Gelato del Lao

We visited this ice cream shop twice during our trip, once in the evening and once at noon. It is just a 2-3 minute walk from the National Museum. The gelato is thick, creamy, fresh, and not too sweet – very good quality. The sorbets are also tasty.

There are quite a bit of flavors to choose, however, they don’t allow sampling due to too many past abuses. I strongly recommend trying some fruity flavors (such as apricot, lime lemongrass) which are such a refreshment when it is sunny and hot. The place is quite small and hot inside, but there are several small tall tables and chairs set up outside.

two cups with scoops of gelato and sorbets at Gelato del Lao in Luang Prabang.

Final Thoughts

Overall, we were satisfied with all the meals we had. The Kuang Si Falls, the architecture, and the food were what made us feel it was worth visiting Luang Prabang. There are several places we wanted to try but ran out of time:

  • Popolo: a very popular pizza and pasta restaurant near Wat Xiengthong. We came at 3pm and they had ran out of dough, so the kitchen had to close to prepare for the dinner service.
  • Khao Soi Noodle Shop: a noodle place with high reviews. It only opens from early morning until noon.
  • Viewpoint Cafe: we were told that this cafe has a good view of where the Nam Khan River meets the Mekong River.

Feel free to let us know about other must-try restaurants you stumbled across in Luang Prabang!

a collage of food in Luang Prabang.
a collage of food in Luang Prabang.

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