Green, stringy, and oh so tasty

Balls of river weed for sale

Many Lao foods come from nature. People will harvest different plants and animals from the forest or rivers, and the cooking style and taste will vary depending on location or cultural traditions. There are many kinds of both modern and traditional Lao food, but one example of a popular traditional food that Lao people harvest from natural resources is river weed. This is a green plant-like algae that grows in strings attached to rocks in the river, especially in areas with good water flow, no deep pools, and clear water where sunlight can shine down to help it grow. Lao people who live near the river or streams will collect the algae for family consumption, particularly in Luang Prabang province.

After people harvest the algae, they may roll it into balls to sell, like the bags seen here. There are a variety of ways to cook river weed, both fresh and dried. The fresh algae can be collected, cleaned, and wrapped in a banana leaf to steam with onions. It can also be fried in oil with herbs, or put in soup. You can also add flavor with pork, small fish, or shellfish, Another approach is to dry the algae before cooking: people to wash the algae and add seasoning like sesame seeds and tomatoes, then roll it into a thin sheet and dry it. These thin sheets are fried in oil, then served. Besides eating river weed at home, people can also sell it in the market to raise money for their families. This algae is a staple food of people in Luang Prabang, but any tourists who tries it will likely want to make it a regular snack.