Lao food is often compared to northeastern (Issan) Thai food, but it’s a distinct cuisine. Sticky rice (khao niao) is a Lao specialty, served in a small basket with most meals. Roll a pinch into a small ball and dip it in jeow bong, a sweet and spicy chili paste mixed with buffalo skin. Another great dipping food is kaipen, a dried river weed coated in sesame seeds. Soup lovers will delight in khao piak sen, fresh rice noodles in chicken broth, garnished to taste with a variety of sauces and spices (take a rice cake and crumble it in the bowl to eat it like the locals). Fresh fruit shakes and coconuts can cool you off if you’re overheated from exploring, and a Beerlao is rarely more than a few steps away.