In Luang Prabang, dine on unexpected, delicious and unusual combination of flavours at Paste Laos
2. Luang Prabang, Laos
Few South East Asian destinations are as enchanting as this northern Laotian town. The once sleepy spot increasingly features on travellers’ agendas but that hasn’t affected its beguiling charm, especially when it comes to its unfamiliar but excellent cuisine. There’s nowhere better to experience it than at Paste Laos, a new spot from chef Bee Satongun, who made her name in Thailand but whose mum happens to be Laotian.
Bee brings impeccable credentials from her Michelin-starred Bangkok restaurant of the same name, evident in dishes like a larb salad of free-range chicken with ma-khaen pepper and cloves that is an aromatic wonderland. Homemade jaew bong — local sweet and spicy chilli paste — is topped with fresh crab, river weed, lemongrass, betel leaf and dill on a cracker you don’t want to end. And there’s much more: unexpected, delicious and unusual combine to make for a fantastic culinary destination.
Another notable chef is in residence at the recently opened Rosewood Hotel. Culinary director Sebastien Rubis’s work in preserving royal Laotian cuisine, which was almost lost after the 1970s revolution, has earned him an Asia Geographical Indication Ambassador award. Even better, Rubis can often be found socialising with guests and going over some of the finer points of the local cuisine. The setting, in semi-open pavilion The Great House overlooking the pool and grounds, is spectacular for lunch or dinner. Any of the local specialities is worth a try. Try the braised water buffalo with sakkhan root, a wood-like root softened in the cooking that imparts a clean, pine-like flavour to the heavy meat — guaranteed unlike anything you’ve eaten before. Or satisfy yourself with crunchy rice cakes, succulent steamed or grilled river fish, tamarind chicken broth… the list goes on, and includes tasty vegetarian-friendly fare as well.