Cao Lau is Hoi An’s most famous dish. The smoked, chewy noodles have a distinctive flavour and are exclusively made in Hoi An. The name Cao Lâu comes from the Chinese character for “steamed high” and the method and recipe is thought to be more than 100 years old. The delicious contrasts of taste and texture in this dish make it well worth attempting – but make sure you have the fresh herbs!
- ½ kg pork loin
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 stick lemongrass, bruised
- ½ tsp five spice
- 3 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp coarse black pepper
- 1 tblsp garlic, pounded
- 3 tblsp soya sauce
- 2 cups pork stock
- 200gr bean sprouts, blanched
- 500gr thick Chinese wheat noodles or ramen noodles
- 100gr mixed herbs; anise basil, coriander, mustard sprouts,
- lettuce, chrysanthemum leaves
- 4 rice crackers (see page xxx)
- ½ cup cao lau croutons*
- ½ cup spring onion curls
- 4 yellow chilli slices soya sauce on the side
Heat oil in pan, add lemongrass and cook slowly to release fragrance. In a bowl coat pork well in five spice, 1 tsp of the sugar, salt, pepper and garlic.
Place the pork in pan with the lemongrass and sear well on all sides, being careful not to overcook garlic. Add soya sauce and 1tsp of sugar, coat well, cook slowly and reduce 2-3 minutes.
Add 1 cup stock, then cook slowly 10 minutes on each side until sauce is reduced and forms a glaze. Remove pork and set aside. Add 1 cup of stock and 1 tsp of sugar to the pan, bring to boil, then turn off heat. Cut pork into thin slices. Heat the bean sprouts in boiling water for 30 seconds, then add the noodles for a further 30 seconds, strain well.
In 4 serving bowls place a cup each of blanched bean sprouts, some noodles and arrange herbs on the edge of the bowl so they stay fresh and crunchy. Top with pork slices and pour 2 small ladles of sauce over pork before garnishing with spring onion curls, croutons and a yellow chilli slice.
Serve with rice crackers and soya sauce on the side.
Serves 4 as a main.
* To replace cao lâu croutons if not available, cut some thick sesame rice paper or pita bread into 1 cm squares and shallow fry in hot oil until golden brown and crispy.