Spring roll corner, Vientiane

In a town where spring rolls - fresh or fried - are on just about every menu, it's pretty hard to pick a favourite. So, it's lucky for me that the locals already have. And that place is Spring Roll Corner, also known as Paxay Spring Roll.

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What's in a spring roll, I hear you ask? Well, the one below is vegetarian and I think it consists of... A rice paper wrapper, fresh herbs including mint, coriander and cilantro; crushed peanuts, spring onions, bean sprouts and fried egg or tofu. Then there's the dipping sauce - a delicate combination of fish sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice, garlic, ginger, chilli, and sugar. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong!

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It might be cheating a little to call it the best Lao spring rolls when actually the restaurant is Lao-Vietnamese. But they've been in business here since 1996 and it's full of locals. Still, the Vietnamese influence is evident.

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You only have to look at the Tet tree below to see. Tet is the Vietnamese new year, and pink blossoms branches, along with kumquat trees and fresh flowers in general, are the primary bringers of health and peace.

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Aside from the festive decor, this is a typically Lao joint - the tiled floor, green walls, plastic chairs, vinyl Beer Lao table covers, and table condiments of chopsticks, Maggi sauce and sugar, are elements you'll find in just about every Lao restaurant in Vientiane.

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Not to mention the iconic framed 'glamour shot', which at first I thought must be of a famous Lao figure but it is apparently of the owner. I love it. If ever I own a restaurant in Australia, I'm putting up an airbrushed picture of myself to smile benevolently down on my customers.

But back to the food. Paxay is known for its fresh spring rolls but also for another local favourite, naem. This is rice that is formed into a ball and then crushed again. It sounds unnecessarily complicated but regardless, it's delicious.

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Here's how it's made... Mix some cooked rice with egg, salt and grated coconut and shape into a large ball. Deep fry it till it looks like those above. Then break it all up again and mix with cooked shallots, fresh herbs and chopped peanuts. The crunchy bits of the fried rice ball give it a lovely nutty texture. Serve on a plate with a banana flower, dried chillis, and another plate of fresh greens. Mmmm... tasty.

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The spring roll powerhouse

The spring roll powerhouse

What's your favourite spring roll place in town?