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  • Writer's pictureAround the World in Vegan Eats


Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Welcome to the first of our blogs from Laos! The first thing we should say is that we both absolutely fell in love with Laos - particularly the beautiful city of Luang Prabang where the charm of the city meets the warm and friendly locals and the delicious local cuisine. We're really excited to share our experiences eating vegan in Laos with you, as we recount our food stories from Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Today, we start in Luang Prabang in the north, with the famous Laotian dish Or Lam (which is usually about as un-vegan as you can get...)

So, what exactly is Or Lam?

Or Lam is a kind of stew that originated in Luang Prabang, Laos - hence we thought this was the very best place to find and try a plant-based version. Or Lam is very popular throughout Laos, and can be found at street and market stalls, as well as in cafes and restaurants. It is a versatile dish, very warming and packed full of nutrients. However a vegan Or Lam is a tricky thing to find. The traditional recipe includes all kinds of ingredients that vegetarians and vegans will want to steer clear of (think buffalo skin, chicken, beef, quail...) which rules out all of the street stalls that we found. On our quest to try a vegan Or Lam we knew that we'd be looking for something a bit more specialist, in a restaurant or cafe that most likely was marketed toward tourists.

However, in its most simple form, Or Lam is a stew made with a lot of plant-based ingredients, including Laos chili wood, citronella, lemongrass, sticky rice, garlic, onions and chilis. So we knew that the base of the dish was vegan: it is only the components that are added to that are not. Even the traditional, meaty recipes also add aubergine and Asian mushrooms - so if we could just find a version that omitted the meat, we would be able to sample this famous Laotian dish in its home city.

This was to be one of our toughest searches yet...

The front of a restaurant with wooden signage and counter and the words 'greendot: eat green, feel good' illuminated in green and white
Bouang, the restaurant where we found vegan Or Lam!

Where did we try vegan Or Lam in Luang Prabang?

It took us some time, and it was far more expensive than the traditional Or Lam sold on stalls at the market and in cafes around the city - but we eventually found vegan Or Lam in Luang Prabang.

While researching, we came across Bouang Asian Eatery, which is nestled within the stunning, old French Colonial high street of Luang Prabang (which is so unique and breathtaking that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994!) Bouang have a menu that mixes traditional with contemporary food: they serve meat but have plenty of vegetarian options from tacos and salads to burgers and curries, many of which can be made vegan as everything is completely homemade. We got in touch with them ahead of time to double check that their vegetarian Or Lam was vegan (or could be made so). They confirmed that the dish is vegan - hooray! We were good to go!

A basket of fresh mangoes
Bouang was a warm, friendly, and pretty place to eat!

The restaurant itself is really beautiful, and somewhere that we definitely would have returned to if we had had more time in Luang Prabang. It feels really warm, cosy and full of life: the staff were super friendly - they speak English and French, and were very helpful and knowledgeable about the menu. Bouang is a popular place, and for good reason - it was always full of people and illuminating the street with warm light late into the evening while we were in Luang Prabang. You can see the restaurant, and our impressions of vegan Or Lam, in the video below - then read on to find out more about our experiences eating this dish for the first time!

So, how was our first experience of Or Lam?

The first thing to say about Or Lam is that it was very different to what we expected! We thought that it would be a thick, spicy and peppery broth, however the reality was very different. Our vegetable Or Lam was thinner, with very chunky vegetables providing lots of different textures and a much herbier flavour. Though it had a tiny kick of spice, I would definitely describe it as more herbal or aromatic, with some hints of an aniseed-like flavour in this otherwise savoury dish.

Chunks of mango and sticky white rice, drizzled with coconut milk and sprinkled with mung beans
This Or Lam was packed full of vegetables and was so well presented!

The vegetables in the Or Lam were fresh and tasty - we certainly felt very healthy after eating this! Packed into this dish were loads of leafy greens, Asian mushrooms, and lots of fresh and seasonal vegetables (some of which we'd never seen before!) The other thing to say about this vegan Or Lam was that it was extremely filling, with all of those hearty vegetables, we both struggled to finish these large dishes of Laotian stew, and they kept us fuelled for the rest of the night! Though this wasn't our favourite dish - it is rather an acquired taste - we are really pleased that we tried this famous and important star of traditional Laotian cuisine. We are even more pleased that, with Bouang situated in this beautiful and historic part of Luang Prabang, that there is an option for other vegans who want to immerse themselves in the flavours of Laos like we did.

How much did this Or Lam cost - and was it worth it?

As we said, plant-based Or Lam wasn't available on a street stall at the time we went to Luang Prabang, so in order to try it we had to go to a fairly upmarket restaurant. This made it a lot more expensive than traditional, meat Or Lam would be at the market! However Bouang is such a lovely spot for food - they have a great menu filled with Asian and Western classics that reflect their mixed French and Laotian influences. It was such a cool place to eat, and the staff were so friendly and helpful - they were keen to make sure that dietary requirements and restrictions were catered for with flexibility and numerous languages spoken.

A box with sticky rice, mangoes, mung beans and coconut milk
Me with my first spoonful of Or Lam!

We paid $5.50 per portion of Or Lam. This is approximately £4.44, €5.06 or ₭92,660.10). This is really quite expensive for Or Lam, and for food in Laos. However, when it comes to healthy, homemade food in an upmarket, tourist-focused restaurant, in the middle of a historic UNESCO World Heritage site, the prices seem much more reasonable. This is the only vegan Or Lam that we found in Luang Prabang - so for that fact alone we thought that the price was well worth paying.

Bouang is located in the centre of Luang Prabang, at Ban Xieng Mene, Luang Prabang 06000, Laos. The restaurant is open from 11:30am until 9:30pm every day of the week.

Have you tried a plant-based version of Or Lam in Laos? Or elsewhere in the world! Where did you try it, and what did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.


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The centre of Vienna with tall, historic buildings all around
Kuang Si Falls is one of my favourite places in Laos

Where should I stay?

For a social vibe, rooftop infinity pool, parties and the camaraderie of dorm rooms, check out Mad Monkey Hostel Luang Prabang, which receives consistently high reviews from its guests.

For more of a serene vibe, Soutikone Place House 2 is family run and traditionally decorated, with private bathrooms and free toiletries.

Tours & Experiences

We really recommend a trip to Kuang Si Falls while you're in Luang Prabang. These waterfalls are absolutely stunning all year round, but especially in the dry season when they're turquoise blue. You can hike around the falls, capture some amazing photos - and some pools you can even swim in (but be sure to only swim in the ones clearly marked for swimming, as some of the pools are considered holy here. This day trip includes a trip to Kuang Si, as well as a Mekong slowboat cruise, and a chance to see the famous Pak Ou Caves.

If that's not quite for you, or if you want to explore Laos a bit more widely, why not try one of the top-rated Viator tours below?

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