Rice and particularly sticky is the foundation for all Lao meals, and almost all dishes are cooked with fresh ingredients such as vegetables, freshwater fish, poultry, duck, pork, beef or water buffalo. Lime juice, lemon grass and fresh coriander give the food its characteristic tang, and various fermented fish concoctions are used to salt the food. Chillies, garlic, mint, ground peanuts, tamarind juice and galangal are also often used just like in Thai cuisine.
Lao meals typically consist of a soup dish, a grilled dish, a sauce, greens, and a stew or mixed dish (koy or laap).
Dishes are often served alongside a plate of lettuce, mint, coriander, mung-bean sprouts, lime wedges or basil, which are wrapped in the lettuce to accompany the food.
Another distinctive characteristic of Lao food is that food is frequently eaten at room temperature. This may be attributable to the fact that Lao food served with sticky rice is traditionally handled by hand.