What I loved about Lao food is the predominance of salads and appetizer-type dishes, allowing for an incredibly varied meal. Ingredients are fresh, combinations are creative, fat content is low, and we always felt satisfied and healthily full after our meals. Sticky rice is ubiquitous; it seemed no meal can be eaten without it. Food is eaten with your hands, by grabbing a small amount of sticky rice, forming a small ball, and dipping it into whatever vegetable or meat dish you're eating.
Some of our favorite dishes included the classic laap, a spicy salad made with minced pork or beef, fish sauce, mint leaves, lime juice, and chilies. While vegetables are delicious and fresh, meat is important and we found many dishes involving water buffalo. In Luang Prabang, a city in the north, we tried jeow bong, a dip made from sweet chili paste and buffalo skin, served with fresh veggies for dipping. Sounds gross, right? I thought so too, but it was actually quite tasty and there was no obvious "skin" texture. We also enjoyed sinh savanh, which is dried buffalo meat and very similar to meat jerky that we eat in the US.
While Laos probably can't beat Thailand or Vietnam in a gastronomic showdown, we were pleasantly surprised at how fresh and creative the Lao cuisine is.