Hoi An – UNESCO World Heritage site, weekend escape from Saigon, gastronomic destination? Having spent a couple of days digesting the sights, I found at least one dish worth travelling for – the regional noodle Cao Lau.
- Cao Lau (5/5). A noodle dish that is truly special, and can only be enjoyed in Hoi An. The centrepieces are two meaty hunks of char siew pork, not overly seasoned, just enough to be a vehicle for the sauce – a mix of soy sauce, pork drippings, and fish sauce. Fried squares of dough, possibly similarly lye-treated – they were very crispy without being burnt – give it a textural crunch. A smattering of herbs from the self-serve bowl, common through Vietnam, gives it freshness. The lime wedge gives it sourness.
- The noodles are unique and unlike the texture of the typical soft rice noodles in Vietnam. They look like rough, grey udon noodles, and have a roasty scent. They are made of flour and treated with lye – special lye, it is said, from the ashes of a particular tree mixed with the water of a particular well. They are cooked by steaming, rather than boiling. What is certain amidst rumour that only 5-7 Hoi An families are trusted with the making of the noodle. This dish was simply amazing, one of the best noodle dishes I have tried.
- Some of my favorite Asian noodle memories from around the globe:
- Soba at Rakuichi in Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan
- Cao Lau in Hoi An, Vietnam
- Fresh fishball noodles, homemade in Singapore
- Wonton noodles from Mak’s Noodle, Central, Hong Kong
- Wonton noodles, Ah Wing’s Wonton Noodles, Empress Road Food Centre, Singapore
I had my Cao Lau at Hai Mi Quang Cao Lau, on Truong Minh Luong Street in Hoi An.
They also serve Mi Quang – a Vietnamese noodle dish with the more typical softer texture. It is also decent, but not as good as their Cao Lau.