Cao Lau is a Vietnamese noodle dish that is famous for its unique taste and texture. It originated in Hoi An, a historic city in central Vietnam that was once a major trading port. Cao Lau is now considered one of the must-try dishes of Hoi An cuisine and a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
The story behind Cao Lau is as interesting as the dish itself. It is said that the recipe for Cao Lau was brought to Hoi An by Chinese traders during the 17th century. The traders settled in Hoi An and adapted the recipe to include local ingredients, resulting in a new dish that was unique to the region. The dish became so popular that it became a staple of Hoi An cuisine and is now considered a cultural icon of the city.
The Main Ingredients that Make up this Delicious Dish:
Cao Lau is made using a unique combination of rice noodles, pork slices, bean sprouts, and herbs such as mint, basil, and coriander. The noodles are made using a special recipe that involves soaking them in water from the Ba Le well, a local well that is believed to have unique properties that give the noodles their distinctive flavor and texture. The water from the Ba Le well is said to be filtered through layers of soil and sand, which gives it a special mineral content that is essential for making the perfect Cao Lau noodles.
The pork slices are another essential component of Cao Lau. They are marinated with soy sauce, five spice powder, and other seasonings to give them a rich and savory flavor. The bean sprouts and herbs are added to the dish just before serving, giving it a fresh and vibrant taste that complements the other ingredients.
If you’re in Da Nang and want to come to Hoi An to enjoy Cao Lau, book a private car from Da Nang to Hoi An now.
How to make Cao Lau
If you want to try making Cao Lau at home, here’s a simple recipe that you can follow:
- 200g of Cao Lau noodles (you can substitute with thick rice noodles)
- 200g of pork belly, sliced thinly
- 2 cups of bean sprouts
- 1 handful of mixed herbs (mint, basil, and coriander)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of five spice powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/2 cup of water
- Marinate the pork slices with soy sauce, sugar, five spice powder, black pepper, and minced garlic. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes to absorb the flavors.
- In a pot, bring water to boil and blanch the bean sprouts for 1 minute. Drain and set aside.
- In a pan, heat up the vegetable oil and fry the marinated pork slices until they are golden brown and crispy.
- In the same pan, add 1/2 cup of water and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes until the pork is cooked through and the water has reduced to a thick sauce.
- In another pot, bring water to boil and cook the Cao Lau noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- To assemble the dish, place the cooked noodles in a bowl, top with the pork slices, bean sprouts, and mixed herbs. Pour the thick sauce over the noodles.
- Serve hot and enjoy!
Note: To make the dish more authentic, you can soak the noodles in water from the Ba Le well, or use a mixture of regular water and lye water to give the noodles their unique texture. Lye water can be found in some Asian grocery stores. Additionally, you can garnish the dish with fried pork skin and crispy wonton chips for extra crunch.
How is Cao Lau Different From Other Popular Vietnamese Noodle Dishes?
Cao Lau stands out from other Vietnamese noodle dishes because of its unique combination of ingredients and the special recipe used to make the noodles. Unlike other Vietnamese noodle dishes such as pho or bun cha, Cao Lau noodles are made using water from the Ba Le well, which gives them a unique flavor and texture that can’t be found anywhere else. Additionally, Cao Lau is typically served with slices of marinated pork rather than beef, which is more commonly used in other Vietnamese noodle dishes.
Cao Lau is also different from other noodle dishes in terms of its preparation. Unlike pho, which is simmered for hours to create a rich broth, Cao Lau is a dry noodle dish that is served with a small amount of broth.
The Best Places to Eat Cao Lau in Hoi An:
If you’re visiting Hoi An, you can’t leave without trying Cao Lau at one of the many local restaurants that serve this dish. Some of the best places to eat Cao Lau in Hoi An include Miss Ly Cafeteria, Ba Buoi Cao Lau, and Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh. These restaurants are known for serving authentic Cao Lau using traditional recipes and techniques, so you can be sure that you’re getting the real thing.
Here are the top restaurants in Hoi An where you can try Cao Lau:
Cao Lau Mrs. Lien
- Address: 21 Thai Phien, Minh An Ward, Hoi An City, Quang Nam
- Opening hours: 6:30 AM – 7:30 PM
- Phone: 0782 672 587
- Price range: 20,000 – 30,000 VND
Cao Lau Mrs. Lien is open from 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM and is known for its affordable prices. The restaurant serves delicious Cao Lau and other local specialties, with prices ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 VND.
Miss Ly Cafeteria
- Address: 22 Nguyễn Huệ, Cẩm Châu, Hội An, Quảng Nam 560000
Miss Ly Cafeteria is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, serving up delicious Cao Lau along with other Hoi An specialties such as white rose dumplings and banh mi sandwiches.
Cao Lau Ba Le
- Address: 45/3 Tran Hung Dao, Hoi An City, Quang Nam
- Opening hours: 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM
- Phone: 0937 691 891
Cao Lau Ba Le is open for service from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM, but on weekends it opens earlier to accommodate more distant tourists. The restaurant serves specialties from Central Vietnam such as Hoi An Cao Lau, Quang-style noodles, chicken rice, grilled meat… with rich and authentic flavors of Quang region locals.
Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh
- Address: 687 Hai Ba Trung, Minh An Ward, Hoi An City, Quang Nam
- Opening hours: 09:30 – 21:00
- Price: 20,000 – 40,000 VND
Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh is a newer restaurant that has quickly gained a reputation for serving some of the best Cao Lau in Hoi An. The restaurant has a relaxed atmosphere and offers a great selection of local beers to pair with your meal.
In conclusion, if you’re looking to explore the culinary traditions of Hoi An, be sure to try Cao Lau. This delicious noodle dish is a testament to the city’s unique cultural heritage and is a must-try for anyone visiting the area. Whether you’re looking for a quick street food snack or a sit-down meal at a local restaurant, there are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to sampling Cao Lau in Hoi An.