Cao Lau is famous Vietnamese noodle bowl dish, specialty of Hoi An City where it originally comes from.
Thick and chewy rice noodles, aromatic broth, pieces of spicy barbecued pork, fresh greens, bean sprouts and crispy croutons are just some of the known ingredients.
Apparently, the recipe is top secret and this dish can hardly be found outside of Hoi An city.
According to the local legend, the water used for cooking the noodles comes from the ancient well in Hoi An.
People believe that the water has certain properties that makes the noodles just the way they are. Hence no Hoi An water, not real taste.
Also, it is said that the noodles are soaked in the wood ashes (together with the water from the well) taken from the Cham Island, so, again, difficult to find elsewhere.
Not sure if it was the taste or the story behind it, but I remember it delicious!
We decided to recreate this recipe with ingredients we can find in supermarket or in Chinese store. We tried to evoke our memories of this beautiful Vietnamese city we visited 2 years ago.
In order to mount this beautiful bowl we will need to prepare few (simple) things separately. Prepare the broth, cook the noodles, marinate and cook the meat. Do the wonton croutons and put it all together.
Cao Lau - Vietnamese Noodle Bowl
For the Broth:
- 1/2 kg pork bones - for soup
- 1 onion - cut in halves
- 2 tbsp salt
- 2 annise stars - optional
- 2 l water
- 1 lemongrass stalk - optional
For the Meat:
- 1/2 kg pork tenderloin - cut in a few chunks
- 2 shallots - chopped
- 1 tsp chili paste - optional
- 1 lemongrass stalk - chopped
- 1 tsp fish souce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tsp five-spice-powder* - (blend of cinnamon, cloves, anise, pepper and ginger)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the Noodles:
- 400 g Udon Noodles - or Japanese Soba noodles or any other rice noodles
- 1 l water
- 1 cup bean sprouts
For Wonton croutons:
- few wonton wrappers - cut into four
- 1 cup vegetable oil - for frying
- few lettuce and/or chard leaves
- few mint leaves
- few basil leaves
- some peanuts - optional - for topping
- some onion - optional - for topping
To prepare the Broth:
- After rinsing well the bones, place them in a deep pot with water, salt, annise stars and lemongrass (both optional) and onion cut in half.
- Cook on medium heat for approximately one hour.
- While the broth is cooking, prepare the meat marinade
To Prepare the meat marinade:
- In a bowl combine chopped shallots, lemongrass, chili paste, fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, 5-spice powder, salt, sugar and chopped garlic
- Add the meat chunks and mix it with your hands pouring the marinade over and mixing it for few minutes
- Then, cover it and leave in fridge for minimum one hour (the longer the better)
- After one hour (ideally 5 hours or overnight) remove the meat from the marinate
- Heat 1tbsp of oil in a large saucepan and cook the meat for some 5-7 minutes
- Pour the marinade mixture over the meat, and add earlier prepared broth. Cover and cook (low to medium fire) for some 15 -20 minutes all together occasionally stirring
- Meanwhile, prepare the noodles
To prepare the Noodles:
- in a separate pot, cook the noodles together with bean sprouts in boiled water for 1-2 minutes approximately
- Remove the noodles and sprouts, rinse them under cold water and set aside
To prepare Wonton Croutons (optional):
- *You can buy a pack of Wonton pastry in any Chinese Grocery Store
- Cut each wrapper in 4 pieces
- In a deep saucepan heat 1 cup of vegetable oil and fry the wonton wrappers only for few seconds from each side or until they look golden and crispy.
- Transfer them on a kitchen paper to drain the oil and season with some salt as per taste.
- Prepare the serving bowls placing some lettuce and/or chard, basil and mint leaves
- Once the meat is cooked, cut it in thin slices and place them into the serving bowl
- Add noodles and sprouts
- Pour few scopes of the broth over and top it with few wonton croutons
- You can add some extra chilies on top if you want it more spicy
- You can add some peanuts and/or chopped onion on top
To Conclude : Our Cao Lau Opinion
Vietnamese cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world and, in our opinion, one of the tastiest as well.
On the other hand, we like to make different variations of Vietnamese noodle bowls combining different types of noodles, meat, vegetables and herbs. Furthermore, you have many alternatives and the best part is that they are always super tasty.
Did this recipe awake your curiosity for Vietnam? Besides this one and tons of other amazing dishes, Vietnam is beyond rich in natural, cultural and historical sightseeings.
Lastly to get more inspiration about Vietnam and all the incredible places you can visit in this country, check out our photo gallery of Vietnam in 25 Photos – Travel Inspiration
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