Vangthong Food Market is the place to come from sunset onwards to sample the best of everyday Laotian food that is authentic, delicious and amazing value. Some tourists may worry that the food preparation is less than sanitary but it is such a popular eating spot that demand is high and the ingredients are always fresh. The market opens just before sunset, and runs parallel to Boulevard Khounboulom. For those who get lost easily, a nearby landmark is the National Stadium which is on the opposite side of the road. Find the stadium and you’ll smell the market.
The best way to experience Vangthong is to simply stroll from one end to the other, buying small quantities of the varied snacks and treats on offer. There is limited seating on offer so barbecued meat, such as bing gai (grilled chicken) or bing moo (pork on skewers), is always popular, of course with the obligatory khao niew (sticky rice). If you lack the required vocabulary to order what you want, there is usually an English speaker within earshot to help you out, and if not, point and smile. After all, the gesture for chicken is the same in every language, right?
Vangthong Market is swarming with locals either here for an enjoyable evening, or picking up take-away food on their way home from work. This is a living market, not something developed with tourists in mind – although foreigners are always warmly welcomed. As you walk past each stall, you will see how efficiently the meat is prepared. Nose-to-tail dining is growing in popularity throughout the world, but at Vangthong Market, this method of cooking and preparing food has always been a way of life.
Even if you don’t want to eat it yourself, you will surely be impressed by how many different cuts of chicken can be worked on to skewers, from chicken feet, all the way up to the neck. A lot of the food on offer is surprisingly simple to prepare and lacks the sophistication of neighbouring Thai or Chinese cuisine. Regardless of the difficulty, the food and snacks here will live long in the memory, as will the photographs of weird and wonderful fruit, fish and skewered meat.
Five Common Foods to Try
Bla Kan Sung – Grilled river fish
Gayoor Toort – Deep-fried spring rolls
Bet Yang – Roasted duck
Sai Oua – Laos sausage
Khao Lam – Pounded sticky rice with coconut cream grilled inside bamboo