Cao Lầu

If there is one thing you will hear on the streets on Hội An, Vietnam besides the ‘come into my shop’ and ‘please look’ then it is ‘Cao Lầu’. Fair enough because that Cao Lầu is Hội An regional specialty.

What makes it particularly special is the chewy noodles that is made regionally using its natural local water. (Think like San Francisco sourdough bread.) On top of that, only one family holds and knows the secret recipe for these noodles. Rumor has it that the government wishes this recipe shared so it will not be lost with the family if disaster strikes.

The dish is fairly simple and quite healthy. For the local Hội An person, it is comfort food.

As for who makes the best Cao Lầu, you may have to live here for a while to judge properly. We managed to find the same Cao Lầu stand owner who served Anthony Bourdain in his No Reservations show. Her gravy is velvety and bursting with flavour. The crispy pork rinds really add texture and crunch.  And oh, that bitter flavour?  That is morning glory. I despise the taste so I actually ate around it and enjoyed it without it.

If you have limited time and only enough stomach room for one Cao Lầu, you should find her.  It was tricky to find her based on a few pictures on the internet because she has moved (and aged)! She is now in the market Cho Hội An and the hygiene queens will be happy to know that there is running water, sinks and soaps there. It is now easier to find her. Just look for stall 034.

Hai Chien, the chef of the best Cao Lao in Hoi An

Hai Chien, lady who served Cao Lầu to Anthony Bourdain

She certainly doesn’t quite enjoy the same notoriety as Phong due to previously being hard to track down.  She is a wonderful lady who is actually quite humble. She didn’t show us the sheet informing you that she’s actually famous until we asked if she is the woman in the picture from the show.


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