Cao Lầu: How To Make Vietnamese Cao Lầu

Cao Lầu is a Vietnamese regional noodle dish from the town of Hi An. Hi An is located in the province of Qung Nam in central Vietnam.

It is typically made of pork and greens and served on a bed of rice noodles soaked in lye water. This gives them a characteristic texture and color that distinguishes the dish from other Vietnamese noodle dishes, including others from the same region, like mì Qung.

The ingredients most commonly served with a small amount of broth are rice noodles, meat, greens, bean sprouts, and herbs. The meat used is typically pork, but shrimp (tôm) may also be used, in addition to either shredded or sliced char siu-style pork (xa xiu).

Vietnamese Cao Lầu

  • Author: Romae Chanice Marquez
  • Recipe Category: Main Dish / Snacks
  • Cuisine: Vietnamese

The whole preparation and cooking time is 3 hours or more (depending on your preferred process). This recipe is suitable for at least four servings. 

Follow these steps to make your own Vietnamese Cao Lầu. Photo credit: @vietnamtourismboard /

Vietnamese Cao Lầu Ingredients

  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • 9 egg wonton wrappers, cut into 1 cm wide strips
  • 600g thick, dried rice noodles
  • 1 head butter lettuce, leaves torn
  • 2 ½ cups bean sprouts
  • 3 limes, cut into wedges, to serve
  • Sriracha, or other chili sauce, to serve
  • 3 green onions, trimmed and sliced
  • assorted herbs (mint, perilla, Thai basil, coriander, sawtooth coriander), to serve
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 ½ tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, white part only, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 700g boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2kg pork bones
  • 8 green onions, coarsely chopped
  • 8 cups of water

Vietnamese Cao Lầu Instructions

Step 1: Combine the garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, lemongrass, five-spice powder, and pepper in a bowl to make the braised pork. Add the pork and brush the mixture across the meat’s surface. Cover and cook for 3 hours or on low overnight.

Step 2: Combine all the ingredients in a big casserole dish to make the pork stock. Take the mixture to the refrigerator, skimming off the surface impurities. Cook for 2 hours at low heat, then strain and remove the solids. 

Step 3: Remove the pork from the marinade, scrape any solids that are attached to the surface, and reserve any marinade. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a frying pan or wok, add the pork and cook for 5-6 minutes, turning frequently, or until browned.

Step 4: Move the pork with the reserved marinade, sugar, and 2 cups of pork stock to a small casserole dish. Bring the liquid to a boil and reduce heat to low, cover the pan and cook the pork for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, rotating once. Remove the pan from the heat.

Step 5: Steam the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. Add the strips of wonton wrappers when it’s hot, in batches if appropriate, and cook for 60-90 seconds or until golden and crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove excess oil and then place it on a paper towel-lined tray. In the meantime, heat up the remaining pork stock and cover it.

Step 6: Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the noodles and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes, or as instructed by the manufacturer. Drain completely. Divide the lettuce into four big bowls and put the noodles over the lettuce along with some herbs, lime wedges, and bean sprouts. Thinly slice the pork then split with the hot pork braising liquid between the containers. Scatter the fried wrappers over the dish. Serve with Sriracha.

Vietnamese Cao Lầu Additional Information

  • By putting the noodles on a bed of fresh greens, bean sprouts, and herbs, a bowl of Cao Lầu is made.
  • This recipe will serve four people.
  • This dish takes 3, or more, hours to prepare.
  • In a pan or wok, then marinated char siu pork is fried until tender, cooled, cut into thin slices, and put on the noodles.

Image source:

About Vietnamese Cao Lầu

The local legend indicates that the lye should be made by leaching the ashes of some plants from the nearby Cham Islands. And that the water used to soak the rice and boil the noodles should be taken from the ancient Bá L well in Hi An. For this reason, according to the legend, Cao Lầu is rarely found outside the vicinity of Hi An.


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Featured Image: /, @virginielobel /