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A delicious bowl of Cao Lau, Hoi An's signature noodle dish

Cao Lau

Cao Lau is a unique noodle dish found only in Hoi An, Vietnam. The legendary noodles are rumored to be made from special local well water and ashes made from trees from nearby Cham Island.

The Stuff Of Legends

Hoi An is a unique city in the central Quang Nam province. It is an old port town that has had many outside influences, namely Chinese and Japanese. In 1999, Hoi An was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The city is famous among travelers for its old quarter along the mouth of the river, where you can still get a glimpse of the port town of yesteryear. The aging buildings are a beautiful mustard yellow color. Colorful silk lanterns line the streets. Aside from the throngs of tourists, its a completely charming place.

Specialty Dishes

There are also several regional dishes. White Rose is a delicious steamed dumpling dish. Sweet Mango Cakes can be easily acquired from one of the many street vendors. Crispy wontons, resembling a chip more than a dumpling, topped with a tomato, mango, pineapple relish on top. There’s plenty to discover. The cuisine in Hoi An is varied and delicious, from the street hawkers to the sit-down restaurants (some of which are floating).

Crispy Wontons, another specialty dish found in Hoi An
Crispy Wontons, another specialty dish found in Hoi An

Perhaps the most delicious, and definitely the most notorious of the Hoi An fare is Cao Lau. With its unique springy noodles, little to no broth, grilled meat, topped with crispy croutons and fresh veggies, all served at room temperature, it is a savory staple served all over town. Each restaurant seems to have their own slight variation in regards to the grilled meat, or the types of greens, or whether it’s garnished with fried onions, croutons, or hard-boiled quail eggs. Among the varieties, the most consistent aspect is the noodles.

A delicious bowl of Cao Lau, Hoi An's signature noodle dish
Cao Lau with grilled beef

Noodles As The Protagonist

The noodles themselves are the most unique thing about the dish. They are the protagonist in this tale. The noodles have a thick springy quality that resembles udon or soba noodles. However, they are not boiled but rather steamed from water that is drawn from a local well. The locals claim the unique chemical components of the water create the unique taste and texture of the noodles. Beyond that, they purportedly use ash in the process made from burnt trees grown on Cham, a nearby island. These specific regional factors are the reason this dish cannot be recreated outside of the area.

There are many reasons to visit Hoi An. I can think of no better reason than the food, starting with Cao Lau. Highly Recommended!

Author: Britt

Britt is a photographer/music producer & proud member of #teamtraynham

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