How to eat Laos Sticky Rice

Glutinous or sticky rice is the staple food of Laos. As the vast majority of people live in the country, away from towns and infrastructure community and focus revolves around cultivating paddy fields. The rice crop is the carbohydrate that keeps people in Laos alive and since it is the glutinous rice variety that contains very high amounts of starch and carbohydrates per grain.

Funnily enough, depite being called glutinous rice or “sticky rice” in the West, there is no glutin in glutinous rice!  This variety of rice originates and is popular throughout Asia, however we found that the people of Laos rely on and praise glutinous rice more than any other food let alone rice!  In fact the call for people to eat “Kin Khao”, literally means “Eat rice!”

Sticky rice is eaten with every meal in Laos and so it is very important to be able to eat with it correctly.  However many visitors have no idea how to eat Laos sticky rice at meal times in Laos, where, like most other countries have their unwritten rules and etiquette.  This is how it is done!

As food in Laos is shared and eaten with the hands it is crucial that everyone washes their hands before and after every meal- do not forget!

1.   Take a handful of glutinous rice with your left hand, making sure you do not reach over anyone else when doing so

Take a handful of sticky rice with your left hand

2.  Roll the rice up with your hand either as a cylinder or ball. This is your supply for the next 3- 6 mouthfuls

Mould the rice into a ball with your left hand

3.   Break off pieces from this supply in your left hand with your right hand. Take the amount you need for each mouthful.

Break off small chunks with your right hand4.  Flatten slightly and press other food into the ball with your thumb, while holding the sticky rice with your first two fingers.

Form the smaller piece of sticky rice into a ball or flatten to scoop up vegetables5.  Alternatively roll this ball out for dipping in sauces and soups.

Sticky rice and jeow or Laos chilli sauce is perfect!6.  Yummy! Sticky rice and jeow, the Laos chilli sauce is the perfect combination!

Dip the sticky rice into whatever takes your fancy7.  Repeat stages above until you are full, sit back, sigh and say “Im Lai” to the cook.

Your host will be more than thankful for this showing of respect. (“Im Lai” means very full and is the sign of respect for eating a good meal) Understanding how to eat Laos sticky rice correctly will make sure that you are included in the local’s group and conversation. Such simple gestures travel far…

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