Hoi An's signature dish is known as cao lau.
Last week's break in the seaside town, a prominent port for European and Asian traders in years gone by, was more colourful architectural treat than culinary extravaganza. The ancient streets house hundreds of tailors catering for tourists on the lookout for some new threads. Choosing a good tailor is as big a dilemma as choosing a good cao lau vendor, equally prominent on the streetscape.
An evening in a pretty riverside garden restaurant served up a view and a less than memorable bowl of noodles. Unfortunately, this is so often the case in these travellers haunts - the authentic dishes are done badly. I know this yet I continue to hope that it might be possible to eat genuine cuisine in a comfortable chair with a touch of ambience.
Next morning, I was crawling through the muddy underfoot of Hoi An's central market looking for the most crowded cao lau stall where orders were being shouted and noodles were being eaten standing up. I know this situation well and I bustled for a bowl with the best of them.
In it was a flat noodle which is supposedly only made with water from an old Cham well in town. Lettuce, herbs and beanshoots make up the vegetable ingredients, thin slices of barbequed pork and crispy pork rind the animal. A half ladle of a rich stock soaks through the noodles and chili can be added at the table. For more detailed information on how cao lau is prepared, check out an interesting recent post over at pieman's.
Check the signage out here if you want to locate this particular seller in the local market. She was handing a bowl over in exchange for 10,000VND (USD60c, AUD75c).