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Cao Lau

Cao Lau: A signature dish on the culinary map of Hoi An

11/04/2024 4475 views

Cao Lau, a beloved dish hailing from the ancient town of Hoi An in Vietnam, is a tantalizing combination of chewy noodles, savory pork, and fresh herbs.

Cao Lau

Delight in the tantalizing aroma of Cao Lau as it wafts through the streets of Hoi An (Source: Collected)

Cao Lau holds a distinguished place on the culinary map of Hoi An, blending the ancient charm of this Vietnamese town with the artistry of its traditional cuisine. Its origins are steeped in the local lore, while its flavors are a fusion of influences from centuries past. Cao Lau Hoi An captivates the senses with its delicate balance of tastes, offering a culinary journey through the rich history and vibrant culture of Hoi An with every tantalizing spoonful.

1. What is Cao Lau? What is its origin?

Nestled in the charming town of Hoi An lies a culinary treasure known as Cao Lau. This signature dish boasts a unique flavor profile and a visually striking presentation. Simple yet exquisite, Cao Lau features springy yellow rice noodles and savory barbecued pork. Fresh greens add a vibrant touch, while crispy rice crackers provide a delightful textural contrast.

The exact origin of Cao Lau remains shrouded in mystery. Some believe it emerged in the 17th century, brought to Hoi An by Chinese merchants. Others posit it as a delicious fusion between the Mi Quang (Quang noodles) and Bun (vermicelli). 

The name “Cao Lau” itself holds a double meaning. “Cao” signifies “high-class,” hinting at the dish’s special status. “Lau” can be interpreted in two ways: either translating literally to “floor” (implying a “high floor”) or referring to “hotpot.” While interpretations vary, many believe “lau” in this context refers to “hotpot,” drawing a connection to the historical practice of cooking Cao Lau in hot pots and serving it near the Thu Bon River in Hoi An.

Cao Lau beckons food enthusiasts from around the globe

Cao Lau beckons food enthusiasts from around the globe (Source: Collected)

>>> Read more: Hoi An street food: 16+ dishes that surely tickle your fancy

2. How do Hoi An people make Cao Lau?

Crafting Cao Lau noodles is a labor-intensive and intricate art form. The journey begins with choosing the ideal rice. Local chefs in Hoi An specifically seek out fresh, high-quality rice from Quang Nam Province. This ensures that the resulting noodles possess the desired softness and chewiness. The rice is then soaked in ash water obtained from the Cham Islands. This special ash water imparts a unique yellowish-orange hue to the rice. 

The water used to knead the dough for Cao Lau noodles must come from the ancient Ba Le well. The specific alkalinity of the well water is crucial for achieving the desired elasticity and dryness in the noodles. In fact, many Cao Lau Hoi An establishments have been unable to replicate the dish’s authentic flavor due to the lack of this unique well water.

Unlike other types of noodles like pho or banh da, Cao Lau is not made by spreading the dough. Instead, after kneading, the dough is rolled out thinly and steamed. Once cooked, it is sliced into strands.

Cao Lau captivates the senses with each mouthful

Cao Lau captivates the senses with each mouthful (Source: Collected)

>>> Read more: Mi Quang (Quang noodles): A delicacy of the cuisine of Central Vietnam

3. The top 4 famous and delicious Cao Lau eateries in Hoi An

Hoi An boasts numerous eateries serving Cao Lau. Visitors can indulge in this delicacy at Hoi An Market or explore some of the suggested addresses below:

3.1. Cao Lau Ba Le

  • Address: 45/3 Tran Hung Dao, Minh An Ward, Hoi An City
  • Operating hours: 11 am – 9:30 pm (Monday – Friday) | 8 am – 9:30 pm (Saturday – Sunday)

Cao Lau Ba Le has gained popularity among diners due to its distinctively innovative preparation method. The noodles are crafted using high-quality rice soaked in straw ash, resulting in a delightful crunchy texture. The water to make the noodles is sourced from the pristine Ba Le well and expertly blended with various ingredients to produce an unparalleled sweet flavor.

3.2. Cao Lau Thanh

  • Address: 26 Thai Phien, Minh An Ward, Hoi An City
  • Operating hours: 7 am – 5 pm

Cao Lau Thanh, another renowned Cao Lau restaurant in Hoi An, is a must-visit despite its compact size. The establishment remains highly esteemed by patrons for its unwavering commitment to quality. Each bowl of Cao Lau here is prepared with the utmost care, ensuring it is unrivaled in taste. Furthermore, the affordability of the dish makes it accessible to all.

Cao Lau Thanh's dedication ensures each bowl is bursting with flavors

Cao Lau Thanh’s dedication ensures each bowl is bursting with flavors (Source: Collected)

3.3. Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh

  • Address: 687 Hai Ba Trung, Minh An Ward, Hoi An City
  • Operating hours: 8 am – 8:30 pm

Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh’s signature dish boasts a distinct character with balanced seasoning, resulting in a deeply satisfying flavor profile. A serving of Cao Lau here is generous, featuring rice paper, char siu meat, and fresh vegetables, all at an affordable price. The intricate preparation of Cao Lau noodles showcases the dedication of its culinary artisans.

3.4. Cao Lau Hong

  • Address: 18 Thai Phien, Minh An Ward, Hoi An City
  • Operating hours: 1:30 pm – 10 pm

Cao Lau Hong is renowned for its delectable rendition of Cao Lau, distinguished by its expertly marinated and cooked meats, crisp fresh vegetables, and delightfully soft and chewy noodles. The restaurant’s clean space and warm atmosphere further enhance the dining experience, while its affordable prices cater to a diverse range of patrons. 

Cao Lau reflects the rich culinary heritage of the region

Cao Lau reflects the rich culinary heritage of the region (Source: Collected)

>>> Read more: Hoi An restaurants: 11+ highly recommend places to enjoy food and relax

4. How to eat Cao Lau for the best flavor?

When enjoying Cao Lau, it’s essential to mix it thoroughly to fully absorb the flavors. Cao Lau is typically eaten with grilled rice crackers (locals in Hoi An often prefer thickly coated rice crackers topped with plenty of white sesame seeds). Another unique aspect of Cao Lau is that unlike other noodle dishes, it doesn’t have broth. Instead, it is served with just a few spoonfuls of fish sauce or soy sauce, allowing the flavorful taste to shine through.

One of the crucial components of Cao Lau in Hoi An is the variety of greens such as sour starfruit, cucumber, banana flower, young cabbage, water spinach, lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro, chrysanthemum leaves, basil, and mint. It can be said that savoring Cao Lau awakens all the senses, from the aroma of fish sauce and soy sauce, the rich smell of pork fat mingling with the sweet scent of shrimp, and the complex flavors of spicy, bitter, and pungent greens.

Cao Lau

Whether enjoyed as a hearty breakfast or a comforting dinner, Cao Lau offers a taste of Hoi An’s timeless charm (Source: Collected)

>>> Read more: Hoi An itinerary: A guide to unveiling the best of this city in Vietnam

Cao Lau stands more than just a dish; it embodies the rich cultural tapestry of Hoi An. Through its layers of culinary tradition, Cao Lau offers a journey through time, connecting diners with the vibrant heritage of Hoi An. As travelers indulge in its savory delights, they also partake in a cultural experience that transcends mere food. Indeed, Cao Lau is a testament to the enduring legacy of Hoi An’s culinary heritage, inviting both locals and visitors alike to savor its distinctive flavors and embrace its storied past.

In addition to delicious food, Hoi An also has a lot to offer in terms of sightseeing and entertainment. One of the best places to have fun in Hoi An is VinWonders Nam Hoi An. This expansive amusement park provides an ideal mix of thrill and relaxation for guests of every age, ensuring boundless enjoyment and lasting memories. Following an exhilarating day, you can retreat to the opulent lodging of Vinpearl Resort & Golf Nam Hoi An, where opulence harmonizes with serenity amidst the breathtaking scenery of Central Vietnam.

VinWonders Nam Hoi An is a must-visit for thrill-seekers

VinWonders Nam Hoi An is a must-visit for thrill-seekers

>>> Book tickets of VinWonders Nam Hoi An and rooms in Vinpearl Resort & Golf Nam Hoi An to experience the ultimate fusion of thrill and serenity!


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