Cao Lau – the legendary food in Hoi An


Hoi An has been the most-visited destination in Vietnam for many years. This beautiful ancient town is not only famous for unique architectures and cultures, but also the amazing cuisine with a lot of delicious food. Among them, Cao Lau seems to be the most special when it is only found in Hoi An.

Let’s figure out about this must-eat in Hoi An and where to eat Cao Lau in your Hoi An food tour.

What is Cao Lau

Cao Lau is a simple bowl of brown noodle with pork and green. Cao Lau is believed to be the Vietnamese version of Japanese soba noodle but still maintains its difference and unique taste. The ingredients to make Cao Lau are not really complicated but it is also not easy to find. The noodle must be made with the water from the Cham wells nearby Hoi An. The pork should be the belly pork with little bit fat and lean and skin. Different herbs and vegetable used in the dish are grown in the neighborhood areas such as Tra Que vegetable village. Cao Lau is a truly local food that you can only find in Hoi An. In any Hoi An food guides, Cao Lau is always the highest recommendation as a great Hoi An food.

Cao lau noodle

Cao lau noodle

History of Cao Lau

Cao Lau is definitely created in Hoi An. However, it is hard to tell who exactly create this noodle. The food appeared around the 17th century during Lord Nguyen dynasty. Some believed that Cao Lau was originated from Japanese soba noodle. But the fact is that Cao Lau is not made of buckwheat flour as soba noodle. On the other hand, there were the clues that Cao Lau is similar to some Chinese noodle and contains Char siu (Chinese pork) in it. But this theory is not really persuaded. Actually, during that time, Hoi An is a crowded port where a lot of Japanese traders and Chinese traders came to do business. That’s why Cao Lau was influenced by these two food cultures and of course, has its own special flavor of Vietnamese cuisine.

Cao Lau in Vietnamese means ‘high floor’. In the past, only rich people can sit on the higher floor of the restaurant to enjoy this fancy food. Therefore, it is called Cao Lau. Today, Cao Lau is sold both on streets and in the restaurants in Hoi An.

Where to eat Cao Lau in Hoi An

Cao lau Ong Ty

Cao lau Ong Ty

In your Hoi An food tour, you can easily find a Cao Lau food vendor on the streets. You may hear of Thanh Cao Lau, Ba Be Cao Lau, Trung Bac Cao Lau which are really popular restaurants for tourists. However, there is a small Cao Lau stall that is highly recommended by locals named Cao Lau Ong Ty.

Located on number 69 on Phan Chu Trinh Street, Cao Lau Ong Ty is a favorite Cao Lau address for Hoian people. Most of the customers are locals. Cao Lau in here is cheaper than other restaurants but the flavor is still very delicious. Cao Lau in this vendor stall is as the same as cao lau in other places with the same ingredients such as char siu, fried cao lau noodle, a lot of vegetables. However, the taste is slightly different and unique that makes you unforgettable. The bowl of cao lau is much bigger than that of other places with full of noodle. The char siu is cut into big slices and taste so great. The herbs and vegetables are incredibly fresh. All of them create a special and delicious cao lau bowl. This street vendor is opened in the late afternoon (around 5 PM).

Hoi An food is a precious treasure of Vietnamese cuisine. And Cao Lau plays the most important part in Hoi An culinary culture. It is not only a food. It is the interference and the influence of Asian cuisine including China, Japan, and Vietnam. After hundreds of years since Cao Lau was created, it still keeps all the best features to make it unique and special. The noodle has to be made in a very strict and complicated process in the traditional way. And only in Hoi An do you find a standard cao lai bowl.

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