Cao Lầu is a traditional Vietnamese dish that originated in the ancient town of Hoi An in central Vietnam. Its history traces back several centuries, and it is considered a culinary specialty of the region. The dish combines elements of Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese cuisine, resulting in a unique and flavorful noodle dish.
Legend has it that Cao Lầu was created during the time when Hoi A was a bustling trading port. Traders from different countries brought their culinary influences, resulting in the fusion of various flavors and ingredients. The dish itself is said to have been influenced by Japanese udon noodles, which were made using local ingredients available in Hoi An.
Cao lầu noodles are made from a special type of rice that is soaked in water from a specific well in Hoi An. This water is believed to give the noodles their distinct texture and flavor. The noodles are then mixed with ash water, which is obtained from the ash of a particular tree in the region. This unique combination of rice and ash water gives the cao lầu noodles their signature texture and color.
To make Cao Lầu vermicelli at home, follow these steps
- Soak a cup of rice in water overnight.
- Drain the soaked rice and grind it into a fine powder.
- In a large bowl, mix the rice flour with a small amount of ash water. Gradually add more ash water until the mixture forms a dough-like consistency.
- Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic.
- Divide the dough into small portions and roll them out into thin sheets.
- Cut the sheets into long, thin strips resembling flat noodles.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles for a few minutes until they are al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water.
- The cao lầu noodles are now ready to be used in the dish.
To make Cao Lầu dish at home. Here are some steps that you can make at home
- 250 grams of Cao Lầu noodles (if available, otherwise you can substitute with thick udon noodles)
- 200 grams of pork belly, sliced
- 100 grams of shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 1 cup of bean sprouts
- Fresh herbs (such as mint, basil, and cilantro), for garnish
- Crispy rice crackers, for garnish
For the broth:
- 500 ml of pork bone broth (you can use store-bought or make your own by simmering pork bones in water for a few hours)
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste
- Marinate the pork belly slices in soy sauce and five-spice powder for about 20 minutes.
- In a large pan or wok, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant.
- Add the marinated pork belly slices to the pan and cook until they are browned and cooked through.
- In the same pan, add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink and are cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a separate pot, bring the pork bone broth to a simmer. Add fish sauce, sugar, and shrimp paste. Stir well to combine and let the flavors meld together.
- Cook the Cao Lầu noodles according to the package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent them from sticking together.
- To serve, divide the cooked noodles among serving bowls. Top with the cooked pork belly slices, shrimp, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs.
- Ladle the hot broth over the noodles and garnish with crispy rice crackers.
- Serve immediately and enjoy your homemade Cao Lầu!
Note: Feel free to adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to your taste preferences. Cao Lầu is a versatile dish, and you can add other vegetables or garnishes as desired.
What makes cao lầu noodles unique is not only their preparation process but also the way they are served. Traditionally, cao lầu is a combination of the noodles, slices of succulent pork, fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and crispy rice crackers. The dish is then topped with a rich and flavorful broth made from pork bones, shrimp, and spices.
The combination of the chewy, slightly smoky noodles, tender pork slices, fresh herbs, and aromatic broth creates a harmonious blend of flavors and textures that is truly unique to cao lầu. It is a dish that showcases the culinary heritage and cultural diversity of Hoi An, making it a must-try when visiting the region.