Cao lau noodles


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Food and Travels: Asia

Food and Travels

By Alastair Hendy

Published 2004

  • About

Noodles with soy-simmered pork and herbs are the star in Hoi An’s culinary crown. A gorgeous thing, found nowhere else but in this antique town. The noodles are made from rice that has been soaked with ash in calcium-rich water, which makes them extra elastic. The croutons that top the lot evolved from thrift, as once they were made from the left-over gunk from peanut oil production, but are now made from left-over rice noodles - pork scratchings work well too. Thrift has a ton of good things to answer for in Vietnamese food. Back home I use regular rice noodles to make this. Serve with dinky bowls of rice vinegar floated with sliced chilli, for sprinkling over before eating.


  • 350 g boneless and skinless pork loin
  • salt and black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground star anise
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 stick lemongrass, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 1 birdseye chilli, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 100 ml soy sauce
  • 200 g round rice noodles (bun) or other noodles
  • 3 handfuls beansprouts
  • 4 handfuls aromatic herbs (mint, basil, coriander, chopped garlic chives)
  • 4 wide strips dried rice noodles, deep-fried until crisp and crumbled, or pork scratchings


Rub the pork loin with salt, pepper, star anise, cinnamon, lemongrass, chilli and sugar, then fry it in a drop of oil in a pan until it’s lightly caramelized on all sides. Pour in the fish sauce and let this sizzle up around it, then pour in the soy sauce and 100 ml water. Gently simmer, turning the pork occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until just cooked through. Leave to cool in its sauce, drain, then slice - reserving any soy gravy for serving. It’s fine if the meat and sauce are at room temperature on serving. Meanwhile, prepare the noodles according to their packet, then drain and refresh in cold water. To serve, dunk the softened noodles into a panful of boiling water to reheat, along with the beansprouts so they wilt. Pile these into four bowls, top with the sliced pork, then pile on the herbs, crispy noodle crumbs or pork scratchings, and dress with any remaining pork-soy gravy.