Laos is located in Southeast Asia, landlocked with Vietnam, China, Thailand, and Cambodia surrounding it's borders.
Lao cuisine is very distinct from other Southeast Asian cuisines. The staple food of the Lao is steamed sticky rice (kaw niaw), which is eaten by hand. Sticky rice is considered the essence of what it means to be Lao. Often the Lao will refer to themselves as "luk khao niaow", which can be translated as "children or descendants of sticky rice". Galangal, lemongrass, and padaek (fermented fish sauce) are important ingredients.
The most famous Lao dish is laab, a spicy mixture of marinated meat or fish that is sometimes raw (prepared like ceviche) with a variable combination of herbs, greens, and spices. Another Lao delectable invention is a spicy green papaya salad dish known as tam mak hoong.
Grilling, boiling, stewing, steaming, searing and mixing (as in salads) are all traditional cooking methods. Grilling is a favorite cooking method. Ping gai is grilled chicken, ping sin is grilled meat, and ping pa is grilled fish. Before grilling, the meat is typically seasoned with minced garlic, minced coriander root, minced galangal, salt, soy sauce, and fish sauce. A couple of the green herbs favored in Lao cuisine but generally ignored by their neighbors are mint and dill, both of paramount importance. Galangal is a cooking herb that is heavily favored in Laos.
Lao eating style consists of eating most foods by hand and with the foods at room temperature, only using spoons and chopsticks for soups and noodles. The traditional manner of eating was communal, with diners sitting on a reed mat on the wooden floor around a raised platform woven out of rattan called a ka toke. Dishes are then arranged on the ka toke. Each ka toke will have one or more baskets of sticky rice, which is shared by all the diners at the ka toke.
Syria is located in Western Asia (or the Middle East), bordering Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.
Syrian cuisine dates far back and has been influenced by all the different civilizations that have settled in Syria, from the Arab Umayyads and the Persian-influenced Abbasids to the Ottoman Turks. It is similar to the cuisine of the rest of the Levant (also known as Greater Syria), such as Lebanese, Palestinian, Jordanian and Iraqi cuisine. Syrian cooking is full of hearty flavors and aromatic spices, mainly using vegetables as ingredients and meat during feasts and celebrations.
At the start of a meal, you are often given a selection of appetizers, called “mezze,” to eat along with flat bread. Za’atar, minced beef, and cheese manaqish (similar to a pizza) are served as hors d’oeuvres. Syrians roll and bake ring-shaped biscuits made out of farina, called “ka’ak,” to accompany their cheese. Desserts in Syria are often pastries stuffed with nuts, cream, cheese or dates.
Some popular Syrian dishes include muhammara, fattoush, kebab, halabi, kibbeh, and mahshi. Muhammara is a hot pepper dip originally from Aleppo, Syria, that can be found in Levantine and Turkish cuisines. Fattoush is a Levantine bread salad that consists of toasted or fried pieces of pita bread, mixed greens and other veggies, such as radish and tomato. Kebab halabi is a kind of kebab served with spicy tomato sauce and Aleppo pepper. Kibbeh is a dish similar to meatballs, made with bulgur and minced lamb in a variety of ways including with sumac, yogurt, quince, lemon juice, or pomegranate sauce. Mahshi is a famous dish of either zucchini or eggplant stuffed with ground beef or lamb, nuts, and rice.
When looking for comfort food in Syria, you will typically discover falafel, ka’ak or shawarma. Falafel are fried balls of spiced, mashed chickpeas, often served in a pita bread with pickles, tahini, hummus, sumac, cut vegetable salad, and hot sauce. Ka’ak are rings of bread sprinkled with sesame seeds or other seasonings. Shawarma is lamb or chicken that you get shaved off a huge rotating skewer and stuffed into bread with toppings like onion, pickles, hummus and tahini.