Lao cuisine is distinct from other Southeast Asian cuisines. The Lao originally came from the north in a region that became China, but moved southward and brought with them their Lao traditions.
Due to historical Lao migrations from Laos into neighboring countries that share borders with Laos, Lao cuisine has strongly influenced the neighboring region of Northeastern Thailand (Isan) and some Lao culinary influences have also reached Cambodia and Northern Thailand (Lanna) where the Lao have migrated.
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The staple food of the Lao is steamed sticky rice which is eaten by hand. In fact, the Lao eat more sticky rice than any group or people in the world; sticky rice is considered the essence of what it means to be "Lao"—many Lao even referred to themselves as, "Luk Khao Niaow", which can be translated as, "children/descendants of sticky rice".
Galangal, lemongrass and padaek (Lao fish sauce) are important ingredients.
The most famous Lao dish is Larb (Lao: ລາບ; sometimes also spelled laap), a spicy mixture of marinated meat and/or fish that is sometimes raw (prepared like ceviche) with a variable combination of herbs, greens, and spices.
Another of Lao people's delectable invention is a spicy green Papaya salad dish known as tam mak hoong (Lao: ຕໍາໝາກຫຸ່ງ) or more famously known to the West as som tam.
Lao cuisine has many regional variations, according in part to the fresh foods local to each region.
A French legacy is also apparent in the capital city, Vientiane, such that baguettes are sold on the street, and French restaurants (often with a naturally Lao, Asian-fusion touch) are common and popular.