Cao Lau is a special dish which you can only find in Hoi An, known for its unique tastes and texture. The dish has its name in the menu of all types of restaurants from luxury ones to sidewalk stalls. And your experience in Hoi An would be uncompleted if you didn’t try this special dish.
AWESOME TASTE AND COLORFUL APPEARANCE
It is said that Cao Lau dates back in the seventeenth century, when Hoi An is a famous harbor for international trading. Despite of its long history, the dish remains its original taste and smell.
Cao Lau is far different from any other Vietnamese noddle dishes like “bún” or “phở” and you can recognize it right away due to the yellowish color of the noodles. The noodles are served with sliced pork, local greens and herbs, fried lard and soy sauce, topped with peanuts and rice crackers, etc. Because of it various ingredients, Cao Lau combines various flavors including sour, pungent, bitter, astringent and sweet. It is also a colorful dish: the yellow of noodles, green of vegetables, brown of rice crackers and red of hot pepper will make you want to stare at it a little longer even when your mouth is watering because of it delicious smell.
The dish is not only special because of it taste but also because of its interesting name. Cau Lau means “high upstairs” in Vietnamese. In the past, Cao Lau is a luxury dish for rich people and eaten in luxury restaurants which have several levels. They often ordered the waiters to “bring it upstairs” so that they could eat the meal while enjoying the view of the beautiful town. Nowadays, Cao Lau remains being served the same way. So it is definitely an unforgettable experience to enjoy a delicious meal and feel like a landlord in 17th century.
To make Cao Lau noodles, the rice has to be stone ground and mixed with ash and water. The ash is made with firewood from the Cham Islands, around 19 km from Hoi An. The noodles are cut and then cooked three times with firewood. The water to cook the noodles is also very special because it only comes from specific wells in Hoi An. Stepping out of the Hoi An land, Cao Lau has changed a bit. People feel in the atmosphere is reduced the ancient feature. Only in Hoi An, Cao Lau has the full flavor and color of a central dish which is very delicate and ancient. Some one says that the Ba Le the well-water is combines with the ashes of Cu Lao Cham and Tra Que vegetables to create this unique cuisine.
Speaking of Hoi An food, no one can ignore Cao Lau. So if you happen to visit Hoi An and take a walk around the ancient town, do not hesitate to step in a nice restaurant and order this characteristic dish. Trust me, you will definitely want to go back there just to have another try of this dish.
Beside Cao Lau, there is much more about Hoi An cuisine to discover. The easiest way is to take a Hoi An Street Food Walking Tour and enjoy your day!