Cao Lau Recipe

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cao lau is a regional hoi an vietnamese dish made with noodles pork

Cao Lau is a traditional Vietnamese noodle dish that originated in the city of Hoi An. This dish is a unique combination of flavors and textures, featuring pork, fresh herbs, and noodles. The dish is often served with bean sprouts, lettuce, and a variety of herbs, giving it a fresh and vibrant flavor.

The recipe for Cao Lau is relatively simple, but the dish requires a bit of time and effort to prepare. The pork is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, five-spice powder, sugar, paprika, and bouillon granules, then browned and simmered until tender. The noodles are cooked separately and then combined with the pork and a flavorful sauce made from the marinade. The dish is then garnished with fresh herbs and vegetables to add color and texture.

History of Cao Lau


Cao Lau is a traditional Vietnamese dish that originated in the city of Hoi An in central Vietnam. The exact origins of the dish are unclear, but it is believed to have been influenced by Chinese and Japanese cuisine. The dish is made with a unique type of noodle made from rice flour and ash water, which gives it a distinct texture and flavor.

According to legend, the dish was created by the wives of Hoi An merchants who would prepare it for their husbands when they returned from sea voyages. The dish was made with ingredients that could be easily sourced from the local area, including pork, fresh herbs, and rice noodles.

Cultural Significance

Cao Lau has become an important part of Hoi An’s culinary heritage and is considered a cultural symbol of the region. The dish is often served in local restaurants and street food stalls, and is a popular choice among tourists visiting the area.

In addition to its cultural significance, Cao Lau is also a source of pride for the local community. The dish is made using traditional techniques and ingredients, and is often seen as a way of preserving the city’s culinary traditions.

Overall, Cao Lau is a unique and flavorful dish that has a rich history and cultural significance in Vietnam. Its popularity has spread beyond the borders of the country, and it is now enjoyed by food lovers all over the world.

Essential Ingredients

Cao Lau is a Vietnamese noodle dish that is known for its unique combination of textures and flavors. To prepare this dish, there are several essential ingredients that must be included. These ingredients are typically divided into five categories: Noodles, Proteins, Greens, Broth, and Seasonings.


The noodles used in Cao Lau are a crucial component of the dish. They are thick and chewy, with a texture that is similar to Japanese udon noodles. The noodles are made from a mixture of rice flour, water, and ash from the local trees in Hoi An. The ash gives the noodles their distinctive gray color and unique flavor.


There are several different proteins that can be used in Cao Lau, but the most common is pork. The pork is typically marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, five-spice powder, and sugar before being braised in a broth. Other proteins that can be used include shrimp, chicken, and tofu.


A variety of fresh greens are used to add color and flavor to Cao Lau. The most common greens used are lettuce, mint, and bean sprouts. These greens are typically added to the dish raw, so they provide a refreshing crunch and contrast to the soft noodles and tender proteins.


The broth used in Cao Lau is typically made from a mixture of pork bones, water, and aromatics such as star anise, cinnamon, and cloves. The broth is simmered for several hours to extract the maximum amount of flavor and richness.


To finish the dish, several seasonings are added to the broth to balance the flavors. These include fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper. The seasonings are adjusted to taste, so the final dish has a perfect balance of salty, sweet, and savory flavors.

In summary, Cao Lau is a dish that requires several essential ingredients to achieve its unique flavor and texture profile. By combining thick noodles, tender proteins, fresh greens, rich broth, and balanced seasonings, this dish is a must-try for anyone interested in Vietnamese cuisine.

Cooking Utensils Needed

To prepare Cao Lau, a few cooking utensils are required. Here is a list of the essential tools needed to make this dish:

  • Wok or Large Pot: A wok or large pot is needed to cook the pork and broth for the dish. A wok is a traditional cooking vessel used in Asian cuisine and is ideal for stir-frying and braising.
  • Knife and Cutting Board: A sharp knife and cutting board are needed to chop the pork, vegetables, and herbs for the dish.
  • Mixing Bowl: A mixing bowl is needed to combine the marinade for the pork.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons: Measuring cups and spoons are needed to measure the ingredients accurately.
  • Tongs or Chopsticks: Tongs or chopsticks are needed to turn the pork and noodles while cooking.
  • Fine-Mesh Sieve: A fine-mesh sieve is needed to strain the broth and remove any impurities.
  • Large Serving Bowls: Large serving bowls are needed to serve the dish.

These are the basic utensils needed to make Cao Lau. It is important to have these tools on hand before starting to cook to ensure that the dish turns out as intended.

Preparing the Noodles

Cao Lau is a Vietnamese noodle dish that is made with fresh rice noodles. The noodles are a crucial component of the dish, and their preparation requires some attention to detail. Here are the steps to prepare the noodles for Cao Lau:

  1. Boil the noodles: Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the fresh rice noodles. Cook the noodles for about 2-3 minutes until they are just tender. Be careful not to overcook the noodles, as they can become mushy.
  2. Rinse the noodles: Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water to stop the cooking process. This also helps to remove any excess starch from the noodles.
  3. Blanch the bean sprouts: In the same pot of boiling water, blanch the bean sprouts for about 30 seconds until they are just tender. Drain and set aside.
  4. Assemble the dish: Combine the noodles and bean sprouts in a large serving dish. Top with the braised pork, lettuce, green onions, basil, cilantro, and chow mein.

It is important to note that Cao Lau noodles are unique to the Hoi An region of Vietnam, and cannot be substituted with any other type of noodle. The noodles are made with a combination of rice flour, water, and ash from the local trees, which gives them their distinct texture and flavor. When preparing Cao Lau, it is essential to use fresh, high-quality noodles to ensure the dish’s authenticity and flavor.

Making the Broth

To make a delicious Cao Lau, the broth is the key component. The broth is a combination of bone broth, spices, and herbs that give the dish its unique flavor. Here is a simple recipe for making the broth:

  1. Begin by boiling pork bones in a pot of water for at least 2 hours to create a rich bone broth.
  2. While the broth is boiling, char some shallots, garlic, and ginger in a pan until they are blackened. This will add a smoky flavor to the broth.
  3. Once the broth has boiled for 2 hours, add the charred shallots, garlic, and ginger to the pot along with star anise, sea salt, and pepper.
  4. Simmer the broth for an additional 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
  5. Strain the broth to remove any solids and set it aside until ready to use.

It’s important to note that the broth can be made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until needed. When it’s time to make the Cao Lau, simply reheat the broth and proceed with the recipe.

By following these simple steps, anyone can make a flavorful and authentic Cao Lau broth at home. The broth is the foundation of the dish, so it’s important to take the time to make it properly to achieve the best possible flavor.

Assembling the Bowl

Layering Components

To assemble the Cao Lau bowl, start by placing a handful of fresh herbs at the bottom of the bowl. Next, add a generous portion of the cooked Cao Lau noodles on top of the herbs. Then, arrange the braised pork slices on top of the noodles. Finally, add a ladle of the flavorful broth on top of the pork slices.


To garnish the Cao Lau bowl, sprinkle some crispy fried pork rinds on top of the broth. Add a few slices of fresh chili peppers for a spicy kick. Squeeze some lime juice over the top to add a refreshing tanginess to the dish. Optionally, add a spoonful of chili sauce or hoisin sauce to enhance the flavor.

The combination of the tender braised pork, chewy noodles, flavorful broth, and fresh herbs and garnishes creates a complex and satisfying dish. The layering of the components allows for a variety of textures and flavors in each bite. The garnishes add an extra layer of flavor and texture to the dish, making it a truly delicious and unique Vietnamese specialty.

Serving and Presentation

Cao Lau is traditionally served in a bowl with the noodles at the bottom, topped with slices of pork, bean sprouts, and herbs. The broth is then poured over the top of the ingredients, and crispy rice crackers are added as a garnish.

To make the dish look more visually appealing, it is recommended to arrange the ingredients in a neat and organized manner. The pork slices can be fanned out on top of the noodles, and the bean sprouts and herbs can be placed in small piles around the bowl.

In addition to the crispy rice crackers, other garnishes such as sliced chili peppers, lime wedges, and chopped peanuts can be added to enhance the flavor and presentation of the dish.

When serving Cao Lau, it is important to ensure that the broth is hot and the noodles are cooked al dente. The dish is best enjoyed immediately after preparation to ensure that the ingredients are fresh and the flavors are bold.

Overall, Cao Lau is a visually stunning and delicious Vietnamese dish that is perfect for any occasion. With its unique blend of flavors and textures, it is sure to impress even the most discerning of palates.

Variations and Substitutes

Cao Lau is a versatile dish that can be customized to suit different tastes and preferences. Here are some variations and substitutes that can be used to make this dish even more delicious:


While the traditional Cao Lau recipe calls for pork, other meats can be used as a substitute. Beef, chicken, and shrimp are popular alternatives that can be used to make this dish. However, it is important to note that the cooking time and preparation method may vary depending on the type of meat used.


The noodles used in Cao Lau are unique to the dish and cannot be substituted with any other type of noodle. However, if Cao Lau noodles are not available, thick udon noodles can be used as a substitute.


The vegetables used in Cao Lau can be varied to suit different tastes. While the traditional recipe calls for bean sprouts, lettuce, and herbs, other vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, and bell peppers can be added to the dish for extra flavor and texture.


The broth used in Cao Lau is a key component of the dish and cannot be substituted with any other type of broth. However, the amount of broth used can be adjusted to suit personal preference. For a richer flavor, more broth can be added to the dish.


The spices used in Cao Lau can be adjusted to suit personal preference. While the traditional recipe calls for five-spice powder, other spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and star anise can be used to add extra flavor to the dish.

Overall, Cao Lau is a versatile dish that can be customized to suit different tastes and preferences. By using different meats, noodles, vegetables, broth, and spices, it is possible to create a unique and delicious version of this popular Vietnamese dish.

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