Cau Lau



Translation: Hoi An-Style Noodles

Alternate Spellings: Cao Lau

Cuisine: Vietnamese

Region: Hoi An

Recipe Type: Main Dish

Average User Rating: 1.31 / 5

Vegetarian / Vegan: Vegan

This dish is a specialty of the central Vietnamese town of Hoi An, a sleepy waterside community with a rich history and a number of unique dishes that you won't find anywhere else in Vietnam. Traditionally, cau lau noodles are made from water from the "Ba Le" well, one of many wells in and around the city dug by the Cham people hundreds of years ago. The water from these wells are widely used in cooking and is said to have a very unique flavor. The noodles are then "cured" using an alkaline solution made from the ash the "tro" tree, which is grown on nearby Cham Island. It's just not the real thing without these special noodles; that being said, we would suggest udon noodles as an appropriate subsitute.

An optional suggestion would be to smoke the cooked udon noodles slightly over a light wood, such as apple, for about 30 seconds, plunging back into water briefly afterwards before serving. This should impart a light, smoky flavor which is the closest approximation we can find to the unique smokiness of true cau lau noodles.


Ingredients:

1 lg block of tofu
2 TB peanut oil
1/2 tsp. salt

For marinade:

1/2 TB sugar
1.5 TB soy sauce
1/2 tsp five spice powder
1/2 tsp chili sauce (tuong ot, preferably)
1/2 TB garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable stock

2 cups butter lettuce
2 cups basil (preferably lemon or anise basil)
2 cups cilantro
2 cups chrysanthemum leaves
4 cups bean sprouts, blanched briefly
4 cups cau lau noodles (or udon noodles), blanched briefly

4 thick pieces of rice paper, grilled or broiled until brown and crispy and broken into large chunks
Red chilies, sliced, for garnish

For dressing:

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce

Directions:

Press the tofu under weight, wrapped in a clean dish towl, for 30 minutes to drain, then cut the tofu into 1" cubes. Pan fry in the oil over medium high heat until browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Combine marinade ingredients and add to pan along with the tofu, simmering 1-2 minutes to infuse the flavors of the marinade into the fried tofu. Drain off the marinade, reserving for later, and set tofu aside. Add sprouts and noodles to bowls, top with salad and herbs, then with the tofu. Drizzle a little of the marinade over the top, add red chilies, top with grilled rice paper chunks, and serve with dressing on the side.

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Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4-6

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