Speaking about Hoi An’s cuisine, people immediately think of Cao Lau as a traditional typical dish of Hoi An. Have you ever wondered if you know the origin of this dish? According to local people who originated from China, Cao Lau appeared in the 17th century when Hoi An’s port was opened for trading – boat businessmen from the Western and the Eastern including of Chinese and Japanese coming here to trade goods. Some people said that Cao Lau originated from China due to its marinated pork but others thought that it came from Japan due to its similar noodle to Udon’s but these 2 countries deny it. Perhaps, Cao Lau is the perfect combination of nations.
What is the meaning of Cao Lau? It means that this dish was sold upstairs of restaurants in Hoi An where foodies can both taste the food and have the nice view over the peaceful and romantic town. Cao Lau is not only special with its name but also its cooking recipe. In every step of selecting and processing the ingredient till making a sauce and herbs forms the delicacy and the memory of this dish. This coastal city is well preserved. Historically, the water of Ba Le well located in the center of the town was said to gave Cao Lau noodle the distinct texture. The main ingredients of Cao Lau are rice noodles, pork, bean sprouts and herbs, most commonly served with a small amount of broth. The rice noodles are made from rice soaked in lye water, which give them a chewy, springy texture and grayish – brown or yellowish color. The locals said the lye should be made by leaching the ashes from plants near Cham island and the water used in soaking the rice and boiling noodles should be taken from Ba Le well. For this reason, Cao Lau is rarely found outside Hoi An. After soaking in the lye water for hours, the rice is processed to make noodles which are soaked in water, washed and boiled till well done. The meat used in Cao Lau is pork marinated with 5 spice powder. Pork bone are also boiled to make the broth along with onions and shallots. Cao Lau is served with lettuce, bean sprouts and herbs such as mint, lemon basil, cilantro, coriander and common knotgrass.