Last Updated on 2 years by Tam Le Van
Hoi An International Food Festival last year picked Cao lau as its main theme. It’s a yummy kind of noodle that stand as one of the enblems representing for rich culinary inventory of the city (others are Mi quang, Banh mi or white rose dumplings). In fact, nowhere else across Vietnam serves this specialty as good as its hometown, definitely. Many people share that never try Cao lau, never been in Hoi An!
In this article, Hoi An Life outlines a list of the best Cao lau restaurants in Hoi An and all information you need to know about the dish. If you’re first timers, each one of them ensure that your first try will be smooth.
Should see also Hoi An’s local food specialties to know other delicacies in town, best places to try them and guided tours.
What is Cao lau?
Cao lau is a famous food specialty of Hoi An. It’s made by brown-colored rice noodles, juicy slices of seasoned pork, raw vegetables, crispy snacks, blanching bean sprouts and served with the rich sauce.
Within local language, Cao lau means ‘on the high floor’ because it is only served on upper storeys formerly. Over ups and downs in centuries, this social custom no longer exists but the name still remains.
History of Cao lau
History of Cao lau starts from at least 500 years ago when Hoi An functioned as a major trading port on inter-continent Maritime Silk Road. During the time, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and others communities lived together and exchanged their cultural values to each other, including cuisine. According to many people, Cao lau was born from this vibrant historic process.
Cao lau is traditionally cooked by sun dried noodles blunched into hot water to make fresh, an effective solution to deal with annual flooding. During that time, green ingredients are in rarity and costy so locals may save money when use Cao lau for daily meals instead of. Moreover, sun dried noodles also enable to be preserved in a long period of time that become very helpful within necessary situations.
Cao lau ingredients and recipe
Steps to make noodles-the soul of Cao lau
Noodles used to cook Cao lau is made by high-quality rice sourced from famous cultivation area in Hoi An countryside like Cam Thanh or Cam Kim island where the fertile soil nourished by Thu Bon river’s alluvia. It’s soaked in hours with jungle wood ash from Cham islands (that’s reason why the noodles has a brown color) and fresh water from Ba Le well (an ancient monument near the Old town). Usage of these elements is a must.
After that, rice is ground into flavour and kept draining. Local makers then knead the dough until smooth, roll them into long pieces and bring to steam on the later stage. These will be cut into noodle shape, steamed for three more times and sun dry before brought to restaurants. When eat, people have to cook dried noodles in hot water for few minutes (make them fresh again) prior to combine with other ingredients.
Cao lau noodles making is a hard work. Makers have to wake up at around 4 a.m and keep high concenstration until eight. Additionally, 5 to 7 people required in working at the same time.
Locals usually choose large pieces of pork for cooking Cao lau either at home or in restaurants. They’re seasoned properly with fish sauce, sugar and spices before cooked in around an hour. Delicious porks own juicy inside and pleasant-tasting outside. And probably, an eye-catching color as well.
Because of its flavourful taste, the water body left after pork cooking process done is used to be sauce for every appetizing bowl of Cao lau. It’s rich, little fatty and harmonious when mix with other ingredients. Traditionally, locals only take clean and unpolluted water sourced from ancient Ba Le well on Phan Chu Trinh street. They believe that Cao lau may not fully yummy if without this. If like to visit, come to the alley of Nha hang Gieng Ba Le, walk about one hundred meters and it’s to the right-hand side. Show your Hoi An ancient town ticket to someone local saying hello to exchange a “piece of sightseeing place” for trying his/her tasty Che me den (black sesame soup). For more information, browse our article via http://hoianlife.net/hoi-an-ancient-town-ticket-and-included-sitess-complete-guide/.
Vegetables and toppings
Raw vegetables (green lettuces, common knotgrass, coriander and herbs) and bean sprouts are unseparable ingredients to make a tasty Cao lau. Specially, herbs have to be brought from organic gardens in Tra Que village where farmers produce the highest quality of their kind. These greenages feature a small-size and richness in essential oils.
Toppings for Cao lau is often crispy fried noodles or square-shaped rice snacks. They look good to see, make sounds when eat and increase the appetite of every diners. In Vietnamese culinary culture, ‘sound’ factor plays a important role to any delicious dish.
How to eat Cao lau like a local
Hoianians like to mix Cao lau with juice from a cut of lime and a local-styled chilli paste (not too much hot, quite sweet). Spicy food lovers also give their noodles more fresh sliced chilli to add more taste. Moreover, pavement/street stalls and market courts are popular places to eat Cao lau for locals. However, not everybody, many people select high-rated restaurants because of their awesome noodles they provide.
Hoi An’s best Cao lau restaurants
Cao lau Lien
|Address: 21 Thai Phien street, Son Phong
|Opening hours: 6:30 a.m to 7:30 p.m everyday
This small family-run eatery is simply equipped with a food preparation court in front and couples of metal tables&plastic chairs just behind. When come to Cao lau Lien, watching how ladies make your noodles before take seat to enjoy is a recommendation. In other words, you will see in their ‘performance’ in slicing eye-catching pork pieces, blanching noodles and bean sprouts until set up every ingredients into a bowl artistically. Lien and her family members usually approach diners with a smile on face. Currently, Cao lau Lien is among the best Cao lau restaurants in Hoi An.
Additionally, there are many noticeable places to eat on Cao lau Lien’s surrounding area-Thai Phien street as well. These eateries bring us both authentic local cuisine experience and tasty Hoi An specialties (come here if want to eat out at somewhere different to the Old town).
Quan Cao lau Thanh
|Address: 26 Thai Phien street, Son Phong
|Opening hours: 7 a.m to 8 p.m daily
Under the shade of big tropical almond trees, Quan Cao lau Thanh is another well-known local restaurant on Thai Phien food street. During time of three main meals of the day, this mecca gets crowded by both tourists and local people due to its appetizing noodles. Like Cao lau Lien nearby, a food preparation court is arranged right in its front and metal tables&chairs within inner space.
Cao lau Khong Gian Xanh
|Address: 687 Hai Ba Trung street, the Old town
|Opening hours: 9:30 a.m to 9 p.m everyday
Close to Japanese covered bridge, it’s not difficult to find out Cao lau Khong Gian Xanh to try its good-tasting noodles. Unlike classic restaurants inside old houses in town, this family-run mecca offers more local vibes. If you are seeking for a place with awesome Cao lau but not too touristy, Khong Gian Xanh will be proper (take note of its convenience to reach all must-see sites in Old town). Late afternoon is the busiest time during the day here so you may have to wait out little longer than common for getting a bowl of noodles. Good things take time, relax!
Other Hoi An food specialties also are for sale in Cao lau Khong Gian Xanh restaurant, such as Com ga (chicken rice), Hen xao (stir-fried baby clams), Banh dap (wet rice paper with crackers) or one-of-its-kind in Hoi An-white rose.
Trung Bac restaurant
|Address: 87 Tran Phu street, the Old town
|Opening hours: 7:30 a.m to 10 p.m everyday
Either local people or travelers know long-established Trung Bac restaurant by its Hoianese chefs who have talented hands in making delicious Cao lau. Ingredents used source from only one reliable noodle maker as well as organically grown vegetable gardens in Tra Que village. The eatery also puts its care in selecting pork to make sure it is fresh, of fine quality and in spices to marinade. Consequently, there is no surprise that Trung Bac is one of the best Cao lau restaurants in Hoi An. Current owner of this popular lunch and dinner spot is third generation working in the business. Within its atmospheric inner space, you have numerous choices for seating. However, the bustle around main meal times also is a thing you need to keep in mind (commonly packed).
Trung Bac restaurant actually is a protected old house so eating out at it brings you not only tasty noodles but also authentic atmosphere.
Quan Cao Lau Ba Le-Quan cao lau ngon tai Hoi An
|Location: 45/3 Tran Hung Dao street, the Old town
|Opening hours: 11 a.m to 8:30 p.m from Monday to Friday, 6:30 a.m to 8:30 p.m in the weekend
Cao Lau Ba Be
|Location: 19 Tran Phu street, the Old town (near Hoi An central market)