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Cao Lau: A culinary treasure of the food capital of Vietnam

15/04/2024 118.109

Cao lau will make you drool with its perfect combination of chewy noodles, smoky pork, and fresh herbs. Don’t miss the chance to taste this unique dish during your trip to the S-shaped country.

Cao lau

As you wander through Hoi An, your trip can be more than just visiting attractions. Getting a real taste of the place means trying the local food, and cao lau is a must-eat here. This dish embodies the essence of the country’s culinary heritage, offering a palette of flavors. We will show you why this dish is special and where to find the best spots in town to enjoy it.

1. What is cao lau? Is it worth the hype?

Cao lau is a distinctive Hoi An street food celebrated for its unique flavors. The noodles are meticulously made, starting with soaking rice in the ash water from the Cham Islands, which is then ground into powder. This process gives the noodles their characteristic yellow color and chewy texture. Unlike many noodle dishes, cao lau does not rely on broth or a variety of fillings. Instead, it stands out with its combination of barbecued pork, pork rinds, and fresh herbs sourced from Tra Que Vegetable Village, all brought together with a hint of fish sauce and soy sauce for added depth.

The meticulous preparation of the noodles, the use of a special water, and the combination of flavors make cao lau not just a meal, but an experience. It embodies the culinary heritage of Hoi An, with the Huffington Post naming it "Vietnam's greatest culinary treasure." It was also recognized by the Asian Records Organization as a dish of significant culinary value in Asia.

Cao lau

>>> Read more: Best Breakfast Hoi An: 12+ morning eateries for a great start to your day

2. Quick facts about cao lau in Hoi An

2.1. Origin of cao lau

The origin of cao lau remains a topic of debate. Some attribute its creation to Chinese merchants who, upon setting up a trading town in Hoi An, might have introduced noodles and the concept of cao lau. Another theory suggests that Japanese merchants brought something similar to udon to Hoi An over three centuries ago, which could have influenced the development of cao lau. However, both the Chinese and Japanese communities in Hoi An dispute these theories, noting that cao lau does not closely resemble any dishes from their respective cuisine.

2.2. Meaning of the name “cao lau”

According to locals, the name "cao lau" means "high floor," which probably comes from how businessmen used to eat their meals. Back in the day, they liked to sit in raised areas or upper rooms so they could enjoy their food and still keep an eye on their shops. Another layer of meaning to the name "cao lau" might be traced to the context of enjoying traditional folk music. This cultural practice hints at the dish's status as an elevated culinary experience.

Cao lau

2.3. Proper way to enjoy cao lau noodles

To enjoy cao lau noodles authentically, you can start by putting boiled noodles, sliced meat, and a bit of meat sauce in a bowl. It is recommended to add specific garnishes like baby mustard greens, bean sprouts, herbs, and a touch of cinnamon, all ideally sourced from Hoi An’s Tra Que Vegetable Village. A crucial addition is green chili. Mix well to let the noodles soak up all the flavors. For an extra zest, add fish sauce or soy sauce to taste. Complement the meal with thick, sesame-sprinkled grilled rice paper.

2.4. Comparison between cao lau and mi Quang

Cao lau and mi Quang might look similar with their rice noodles, meat, vegetables, and the limited use of water, but they have distinct differences. Cao lau's preparation involves soaking rice in ash water from Cham Islands to create noodles that are golden, crispy, and uniquely textured. These noodles are then steamed, thus they are tougher. In contrast, mi Quang may offer softer noodles and a different array of flavors. Despite their superficial similarities, the preparation and ingredients of cao lau set it apart, offering a unique taste experience.

Cao lau

>>> Don’t forget to savor the delectable Hoi An chicken rice!

3. 5 of the best cao lau restaurants in Hoi An

Thanks to its popularity, you can get a bowl of cao lau anywhere in Hoi An at a reasonable price. Recommended below are 5 must-try places in Hoi An based on the reviews of food critics, travel bloggers, and tourists:

  • Cao Lau Ba Be: 19 Tran Phu Street, Hoi An
  • Cao Lau Thanh: 26 Thai Phien Street, Hoi An
  • Quan Ong Hai: 6A Truong Minh Luong Street, Hoi An
  • Quan Cao Lau Ba Le: 49/3 Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoi An
  • Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh: 687 Hai Ba Trung Street, Hoi An

>>> Check out: 11 Best Hoi An Restaurants - An Unbiased Review 2023

4. Best cao lau recipe to recreate the authentic flavor

4.1. Ingredients

Making cao lau requires a thoughtful assembly of ingredients, each contributing to its complex flavors. Here is what you will need to craft this culinary masterpiece:

  • 600g of lean minced pork
  • 600g of pork bones (optional)
  • 4 onions and 4 cloves of garlic
  • Spices
  • Cooking oil and cashew oil
  • Cao lau noodles
  • Hoi An chili sauce and soy sauce
  • Basil, bean sprouts, baby mustard greens, chili, green chili, and lemon
Cao lau

4.2. Instructions

Here is a detailed cao lau noodle recipe for making this Vietnamese culinary treasure:

  • Marinate the meat: Combine the spices, soy sauce, sugar, cashew oil, and chili. Marinate the pork for 2-3 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  • Cook the meat: Fry the marinated pork until golden, then set aside. In the same pan, fry the onions and garlic. Add the pork, add some meat juice, and simmer until tender.
  • Assemble the dish: Start by putting a layer of bean sprouts in a bowl. Add the cao lau noodles and thinly sliced cooked pork on top. Drizzle with meat juice for flavor. Garnish with crispy fried ram, lemon, chili sauce, herbs, and green chili.

Cao lau has always been the pride of Hoi An. It impresses both domestic and foreign tourists with its perfect combination of ingredients and flavors. If you have a chance to come to Hoi An Ancient Town, don’t forget to visit the well-known cao lau restaurants recommended above to enjoy the best cao lau in Hoi An. 

Cao lau

While you are in Hoi An, you should spend time visiting attractions including Hoi An Ancient Town, Hoi An Coconut Village, Cham Islands, An Bang Beach, My Son Sanctuary, and especially VinWonders Nam Hoi An. This captivating amusement park is divided into many unique zones, each offering a range of thrilling experiences for visitors of all ages.

For an unforgettable trip in Hoi An, it is highly recommended that you stay at Vinpearl Resort & Golf Nam Hoi An. Nestled along the pristine Binh Minh Beach, this resort masterfully combines contemporary design with the tranquil beauty of nature. Vinpearl is renowned for its exceptional services, luxurious amenities, and culinary offerings, ensuring a stay filled with comfort, indulgence, and memorable experiences.

Cao lau

>>> Book rooms in Vinpearl Resort & Golf Nam Hoi An and tickets of VinWonders Nam Hoi An to enjoy top-notch services!

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