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The Ultimate Guide to Laos Herbs and Vegetables

Learn the various types of Laotian herbs that are used in cooking. I share with you a specific list of common herbs that are used as well as links to some recipes that use them.

When you go to an Asian market for the first time, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of various herbs that you’ll see and wonder what types of dishes they are used in. My goal with this post is to share with you some of my favorite Laotian herbs and vegetables (basically anything you can find in the fresh aisle) so you can cook them right at home.

This page will be added over time as I continue to bring you some of my favorite Laotian recipes!

Laos herbs and vegetables used in cooking  

Ultimate Guide to Identifying and Eating Laotian Herbs and Vegetables

Below are my most frequently used herbs and vegetables that I use in cooking Lao food for my family and friends.

Chrysanthemum Leaves

Chrysanthemum leaves in Lao dishes are often eaten fresh and as accompaniments in a lot of hot soups and dishes.

Culantro – Pom Tet

Culantro has a very unique flavor, often described as a stronger intense flavor of cilantro. Laos dishes that it is used in include:

  • Lao Pho
  • Larb
  • Naw Mai soup

Fish Mint or Heart Leaf – Pak Kao Tong

Fish mint leaves have a distinctive fishy flavor. Not to be confused by its name, fish mint leaves don’t taste remotely minty. Instead they have a slightly sour, metallic tang and the roots are much more similar to a really strong cilantro. Lao dishes that it is used in include:

fish mint lao dishes

Thai Basil – Bua La Pa

Thai Basil can often be found abundantly at most Asian grocers, visible due to it’s purple flowering stem. Laos dishes that it is used in include:

Peppermint – Pak Hom Ho

Peppermint is an herb that is used in both Lao and America dishes and has a menthol taste. Dishes that it’s included in are:

Spearmint – Hom Hua

Compared to peppermint, spearmint has a much subtler, sweeter flavor. This includes:

Rice Paddy Herb – Pak Ka Ngang

Rice paddy herbs have a sharp citrusy flavor that is often paired with hot soups. This includes:

  • Cang Som
  • Kang Naw Mai
  • Muk Ba

Pennywort – Pak Ngoc

Pennywort has a cucumber taste when eaten fresh. Lao dishes that this is included are:

  • Larb
  • Soup
  • Muk Ba
  • Drinks

pennywort lao herb

Mustard Leaf – Pak Kat

Mustard leaf has a distinctly peppery taste, adding a great accent to salads, simple sautés, and the following Lao dishes. They grow pretty well in the cooler part of the year, and are a common winter vegetable

Shredded Water Spinach – Pak Bong

Shredded water spinach has a mild, slightly mineral flavor, a little like watercress (one of its many synonyms is Siamese watercress) without the mustard-like piquancy. Dishes that this includes are:

Banana Blossom- Bi Coui

Banana blossoms are soft with just a bit of crunch and taste like an artichoke when it comes to flavor. Banana blossoms can be eaten raw or cooked, and we often eat them sliced thinly. Lao dishes this is often included in are:

banana blossom

Piper Lolot – Pak Ilut

Piper Lolot are heart-shaped leaves have a mild peppery taste and a very unique smell once cooked. Lao dishes that this herb is included in are:

  • Coi
  • Larb
  • Gang Sean

Long Bean – Mak Tua

The long bean, also known as the yard long bean can be found in Lao cuisine. Long bean is often chopped up in pieces to add a nice crunch in a soup or cold salad like:

lao long bean for salad

Papaya – Mak Hung

Papaya is often used in the most infamous Lao dish of all, papaya salad:

Kaffir Lemon Leaves – Bai Keehoot

Kaffir lemon leaves have a strong citrusy flavor with a hint of pungency. Lao cuisines that is included in are:

kaffir lime leaves

Galangal

Galangal has a sharp citrusy, almost piney taste. Dishes that this is included are;

all about galangal

Lemon Grass – Hua Seen Kai

Lemon grass is citrusy with a lemony flavor tasting like almost like a mix of lemon and lemon mint. T

Shallots – Hua Hom Dang

Shallots are a mix between garlic and onion. It’s a vegetable that is often used in soups and other dishes.

  • Tom Chew
  • Tom Cang
  • Nam Kun

Mung Bean Sprouts – Tuo Ngoc

Mung bean sprouts are often used as an accompaniments of different dishes.

asian bean sprouts

Southeast Asian Herbs Not Commonly Used in Lao Cuisine

The following dishes are often associated with Lao dishes, but aren’t used as often. They are mainly used in their neighboring country, Vietnam. Generally, these herbs are not used in common Lao cuisine.

  • Vietnamese Perilla
  • Vietnamese Balm
  • Chinese Chives

Summary of Lao Herbs and Vegetables Commonly Used

I hope you find this guide to the most common Laotian herbs and vegetables helpful. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to comment below.

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