Cao lau (Cao lầu) is a signature dish of Hoi An, consisting of thick rice noodles, slices of roasted pork, crispy rice crackers, bean sprouts, lots of herbs and veggie and topped with a spoonful of stock. What is the secret?
The secret lies mostly at how to make this sophisticated and mysterious dish. Only few people know the exact receipt to this unique dish and the tale behind it is a legend. The noodle is made from carefully selected local fresh rice than pre-soak in well water. The noodle will therefore be soft, enduring and closer in texture to pasta. To make Cao lau soup, well water is mixed with ash from certain trees grown on Cham islands, which is off the coast of Hoi An.
So you might wonder what is so special about this? It’s the well water I’ve been talking about. It is drawn from an ancient well called Ba Le (Giếng Bá Lễ) which is dug up by Cham people. The water is said to help creating a unique and authentic flavor for the dish that can’t be replicate. If you try to make the dish with water from somewhere, it won’t come out correctly as it should be. That’s the reason why the dish is nowhere to be found outside Hoi An.