One of the most popular drinks in Laos is Beerlao. One of the most popular snacks for Beerlao is kaipen. Sheets of dry kaipen can be found at every market, and many cafes offer fried kaipen. It is usually served with jeow bong, a paste of roasted chili and fried buffalo skin.
Kaipen is very quick to cook but it requires some mastery, as if you fry it for too long or don't heat the oil properly, it will become bitter and acrid. Some cafes offer one-time courses for kaipen preparation.
It might be surprising that the main ingredient of kaipen is river weed, which is harvested from December to May. Local people collect the long green algae and form pressed sheets from it. Sheets are then left to dry on racks. The final product gets its aroma and color from seasoning and by soaking it with sesame, garlic, tomato, and onion.