Local food

With a cool climate and relatively high altitude, Xiengkhouang produces many food items and forest products that are either not available or in scarce supply in other parts of the country. Specialty fruits of the province (seasonally available dependant on species) are Chinese pear (mak jong), passion fruit (mak nawt), peach (mak kai), and plum (mak mun).

While at the market look for the many different varieties of mushrooms found here, such as hed deep, a yellow, flower-like mushroom common to the area. You’ll be lucky, however, to find the medicinal, and some say aphrodisiac-like, mushroom hed wai specific to the region, as this species is exported at high value (30-40USD/kg) to connoisseurs throughout the world. Another notable medicinal forest product unique to the province is ya hua, a root used to give strength and good appetite and for treating ailments experienced by women after giving birth.

Xieng Khouang’s local chili pastes are the jaeow bong, a sour version of the famous chili paste from Luang Prabang, and jaeow pa khem, a paste made from salted fish. One of the unusual foods that Xiengkhouang is famous for, available only here, is sour swallow (nok ann toong). Every year, beginning in August/September, migratory swallows, traveling from Russia and other northern areas, visit Xiengkhouang to bathe on dust platforms located on hill tops. The swallows are caught and placed in a container to ferment. Later they are prepared by either frying or cooking in a stew. The birds are best eaten whole—without the feathers of course.