What should be done to promote Lao food?

Laos has a variety of traditional foods that are nutritious, delicious and unique on the world stage.  The country boasts restaurants that offer fare as good as you can find anywhere. But Laos does not have a strong presence when it comes to sales. Is there a problem with image? Is packaging the problem? Vientiane Times asked some local residents and vendors what they think should be done to boost the popularity of Lao products.

 

Ms Khanngern Phommalang, from Luang Prabang province: It would be great if all food vendors in the province made a special effort to serve the tastiest Lao dishes as a part of Visit Laos-China Year. Whether they’ve been eating at small roadside stalls or in larger restaurants, visitors are in broad agreement when they say that Lao people know how to cook tasty food. Laos really should have a higher international profile than it does when it comes to cuisine. Lao food is healthy and tastes great.  I think one of the solutions is that Lao packaging and promotion could be improved to entice more people to buy our products. And if Lao food producers met international standards in terms of quality control, people overseas would be more likely to try our products too. 

Mr Pho Saengsoulideth, from Champassak province: Every province in Laos has different foods and they are all tasty. I’m sure all visitors will enjoy our food if they try it when they come here. There are many good restaurants offering foreign cuisines of course, but Lao food is generally tastier and better value for money. I would encourage all visitors to first give Lao food a try before they race off to find a foreign dish they are familiar with when they first arrive. We should give visitors information about Lao food and culture around eating as well, so they know what to ask for. Most importantly, Lao people need to make sure they serve up only clean and fresh food.  

Ms Mai, a vendor from Huaphan province: Food hygiene is a very important issue.  It worries me sometimes and I think we need to have a national conversation about it so that vendors are aware of the best and safest work practices. Lao food can be quite spicy, and the flavours strong.  I think that the cleanliness of some Lao food is questioned by foreigners when really it is merely their stomachs not coping with, what is for them, a new food. Lao foods often lack modern packaging compared to products from other countries. It’s difficult to attract customers with a product that doesn’t look as appealing as its competitors. Authorities should develop new regulations that promote clean food production standards.  They should provide food producers with training to help them use the best food production methods.

Ms Kiedsy Vongchamphone, from Settha organic farm: Laos has many restaurants that serve local and overseas cuisines. Tourists will have no problem with the food when they come to Laos as there really is something for everyone. I think some tourists prefer to eat Lao food because they want to try something different. We must work hard to make sure our food is clean and free of harmful bacteria. I would like to ask vendors to pay more attention to the safety of their customers than the profit they make. If we want to see stronger sales of Lao food overseas we need to make sure it is of the highest standard in terms of quality and safety.
 Ms Nattaphone Phoutthavong, a vendor from Vientiane: I haven’t heard a single foreigner complain about the food I sell. I can’t say all of the food sold in markets or on the streets is clean, as that depends on the cook and the seller. I always do my best to make sure I serve clean, fresh and tasty food.  I eat it myself.  I don’t want my customers to get sick, and I don’t want to get sick either. Food should always be covered to protect it from flies and dust.  I would like to learn about the things people do and the technologies people are using in other countries to ensure food standards are maintained. If Laos can match other countries in quality control, I’m sure Lao food could be some of the most sought after in the world.

By Lamphone Pasanthong
(Latest Update January 30, 2019)


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