A delicious bowl of Cao Lau has long become one of the not-to-be-missed experiences whilst traveling to Hoi An ancient town. We call it a signature dish of Hoi An because an authentic bowl can only be found within the town although many places in Hanoi or Saigon also integrates Cao Lau into their menu.
Cao Lau comprises flat rice noodles, pork, some pieces of shrimp chips (phong tom) and local herbs. But the thing that makes Cao Lau special is the mouthwatering sauce. Unlike pho, bun cha or bun bo hue, Cao Lau is a “dry” noodle dish which requires eater to mix it altogether for the best enjoyment.
Along with the famous Temple Bridge that is printed on the 20.000 VND note, Cao Lau is considered an influence of Japan to Hoi An. It is believed that when the Japanese merchants came to this trading port and later settled here, they invited their own noodle dish, a blend of Japanese soba noodles with Vietnamese ingredients. But the name is not associated with Japan at all. In Vietnamese, Cao Lau means “high storey” as people often eat this dish on the higher floors of the traditional restaurants.
However, today, travelers coming to Hoi An can try Cao Lau not just in tourists’ restaurants, but at several vendors along the riverside pavements as well.