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The Magical Story of Cao Lau

Cao lau is one of Vietnam’s most sought after and enchanting dishes. It is unlike any other Vietnamese food, employing steamed noodles and special ingredients that can only be found in the UNESCO world heritage village of Hoi An. With so many conflicting stories of its origin and mystery surrounding it, the dish has reached almost legendary status. Luckily, David Farley did his due diligence and wrote a fantastic piece about cao lau for

In his piece, David does his best to get the facts and demystify the regional specialty. The journey starts with attempting to pin down the history of cao lau. Some say it came from China, others say from the Cham. But David concludes, no matter its origin, the dish has become part of Hoi An’s heart and soul:

“You can’t take cao lau out of Hoi An, nor can you take the Hoi An out of cao lau. It’s the ultimate example of culinary terroir.”

Throughout his cao lau expedition, David tries to watch the dish being prepared (not so easy!), meets members of the original cao lau making family and discovers it is the ‘anti-pho’:

“Broth is the star in pho, Vietnam’s national dish; rare brisket, tendons, and soft noodles play supporting roles. Conversely, cao lau is short on broth; a dark shallow pool comes as a hidden surprise when you get to the bottom of the bowl.”

To see if David was successful in his mission, read the full article at

[Photo via Chez Moi]

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