Traveling through Việt Nam a couple of years ago I had the privilege of tasting authentic Cao Lầu noodles in the town from which they are famous: Hội An.
Hội An is a trading town in central Vietnam, famous for its handmade clothing from the tailor shops and even more famous for Cao Lầu noodles. It’s the only place where a set of ancient Cham wells exist and the only place considered truly authentic for eating Cao Lau.
The Kingdom of Champa dates to as early as the 7th century, and continued into the early 1800’s, before becoming part of Việt Nam. The Cham people dug wells that still exist today, and the water is said to have a unique flavor found nowhere else.
Now I couldn’t tell you after eating Cao Lau if that water made the difference, or from the way they soak the noodles in lye from wood ash, but I know I’ve never before had any noodles as delicious as Cao Lau. I still remember the taste. I tried it both in a restaurant and from a street vendor, and while I enjoyed the street vendor more, I loved it both places I had it.
I don’t expect you to fly to Hoi An for Cao Lau, but if you’re interested in making your own, here is a link to a Cao Lau recipe.