Hoi An’s legendary Cao Lau is shrouded in mystery. Amazingly, despite being the signature noodle dish of Vietnam’s hippest heritage town, both its origins and essential ingredients are unknown to almost everyone.

The sweet and smoky broth of Cao Lau shows more than a hint of Chinese-style flavouring and the name is rumoured to be derived from Chinese words. Yet, the preferred story of origin is that Japanese traders brought it with them when they settled in Hoi An during the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s certainly a believable tale given that the springy, chewy, rice noodles in this dish show similarities to Japanese udon-noodles.

In fact, it’s the noodles in this dish that are at the heart of the mystery; just one local family produces them! The recipe and origin of these noodles is a closely guarded secret amongst the family, who supply the noodles to all restaurants in Hoi An.

Unless someone shares the secret recipe, you really won’t find any authentic version of Cao Lau outside of Hoi An. We think that’s a good enough reason to get here quick and try it for yourselves!

Sample some Cao Lau and let us know your opinion; does it taste like it’s influenced by Japanese, Chinese or Vietnamese cuisine, or somewhere else?