Cao Lau recipe: How to cook the pork and noodle dish from Hoi An, Vietnam

Dur­ing a recent trip to Viet­nam I sought out this dish unique to Hoi An. I’d tried it first on trip to South East Asia in my 20s and never for­got how deli­cious it is. I man­aged to source the recipe below, pub­lished for prosperity.

Water source: In Hội An Faifo and sur­round­ings such as Cẩm Khê, there still remain old square wells that the Cham peo­ple dug from hun­dreds of years ago. Water from these wells is used for drink­ing and cook­ing, and it has a unique fla­vor. The most famous well is Well Bá Lễ.

Lye solu­tion: Lye is made from ashes of trees. Dif­fer­ent trees give dif­fer­ent lye solu­tions. This par­tic­u­lar lye solu­tion that is used to make cao lầu’s noo­dle is from “tro” tree grown in Cham Island nearby.

Rice: The rice to make cao lầu’s noo­dle is of a local rice vari­ety. The rice used is nei­ther freshly har­vested nor too aged. The rice is washed, soaked in Hội An’s well water and lye solu­tion. After that the soaked rice is ground into a thick paste, poured into cot­ton bags to drain excess water. The paste becomes dough, and is kneaded. The thin dough is briefly steamed, cut into strings, and steamed again until the noo­dle becomes com­pletely cooked. The noo­dle is left in open air for its sur­face to dry. When used, the noo­dle is blanched briefly in hot water. Cao lầu’s noo­dle has more tex­ture and doesn’t have a sour fla­vor of reg­u­lar rice noodle.

Xá xíu (Trans­la­tor: This is Viet­namese pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Chi­nese bar­be­cue pork, char siu): About 500g lean pork butt, cut to about 5cm thick. Mix­ture: 5g Chi­nese five-spice pow­der + 1/2 tea­spoon salt + 1/4 tea­spoon ground pep­per + 1 table­spoon minced gar­lic + 2 table­spoons soy sauce. Mar­i­nate the pork in the mix­ture for 40 min­utes. Heat a small pot in low heat, add 2 table­spoons cook­ing oil, and pan fry the pork a lit­tle, then add boil­ing water to cover the meat. You can also use coconut juice instead of water. Sim­mer until the liq­uid is reduced to lit­tle remain­ing. The pork should now be ten­der. When used, slice it into thin pieces.

Stock: Cook 500g pork bones in 3 liters of water and 100 typo error? dried shal­lots. Sim­mer and skim the fat often until about 2.5 liters stock is left. Remove the bones and shal­lot from the stock. Sea­son the stock with salt and MSG Ori­en­tal food, of course! to taste.

Pork rind: Select the thinnest pork skin, and remove all the fat. Cut the skin to small pieces of about 2 cm wide, and mar­i­nate for 30 min­utes in the same kind of mix­ture you use to make xá xíu. Deep fry in high heat? the pork rind until crispy. Let the pork rind drain.

Herb: Húng lủi Men­tha aquat­ica L.; water mint, cut to short stems. Chive, minced. Cilantro also.

Pre­sen­ta­tion: Put noo­dle and water mint in a bowl. Place slices of xá xíu on top. Throw in some pork rind and minced chive. Pour just a litte of the stock into the bowl. Also throw in some cilantro on top. Put a dash of pepper.

New mod­i­fi­ca­tions: Some peo­ple now add dry shrimp, dry squid in the soup stock to add more fla­vor with a ratio of 10g dry squid or shrimp and 1/2 liter of water. Some also use chicken stock instead, but this gives dif­fer­ent fla­vor. Some add more vari­eties of herb, minced. Uncooked bean sprout, roasted peanut, rice crack­ers that are bro­ken in small pieces…are also used. Some even use boiled chicken meat cut into squares, sauteed shrimp. Some cao lầu noo­dle has a deep yel­low color of tumeric, and is only seen in Saigon. Trans­la­tor note: Lye solu­tion is widely used in Chi­nese yel­low wheat noo­dle to make tougher texture.

via How to cook Cao Lau — noodlepie.

Also read...


  1. Great post. Just returned from Hoi An and sev­eral other VN places. Cao Lau was my favorite dish there and I found your post here when I went to search for a recipe. Glad to see so many of us had such a tran­scen­dent expe­ri­ence with this dish and I look for­ward to using your tips in recre­at­ing it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>