Here’s an approximation of a delicious noodle dish from the quaint town of Hoi An in Central Vietnam. It can only really be an approximation as the noodles required to make authentic cau lau are regionally specific. They are made from local rice and pre-soaked in local water with lye made from wood ash. Local lore has it that even the water has to come from a specific well. The resulting noodles are a little yellow and quite chewy; here, dried thick rice noodles have been substituted. Some cooks add roasted peanuts or fried pork skin and you can use whatever herbs you can find or that you prefer.
- 250 ml (1 cup) vegetable oil
- 8 egg wonton wrappers, cut into 1 cm wide strips
- 500 g thick, dried rice noodles
- 1 butter lettuce, leaves torn
- 250 g (2 ½ cups) bean sprouts
- 2 limes, cut into wedges, to serve
- Sriracha, or other chilli sauce, to serve
- 2 green onions, trimmed and sliced
- assorted herbs (mint, perilla, Thai basil, coriander, saw tooth coriander, rice paddy herbs, for example), to serve
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 ½ tbsp soy sauce
- 2 ½ tbsp fish sauce
- 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, finely chopped
- 1 tsp five spice powder
- 1 tsp ground white pepper
- 600 g boneless pork shoulder
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 kg pork bones
- 6 green onions, coarsely chopped
- 2 L (8 cups) water
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Marinating time 3 hours or overnight
To make the braised pork, combine the garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, lemongrass, five spice powder and pepper in a bowl. Add the pork then rub the mixture all over the surface of the meat. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
To make the pork stock, combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, skimming off the impurities that rise to the surface. Cook over low heat for 2 hours then strain, discarding the solids.
Remove the pork from the marinade, scraping any solids that cling to the surface and reserving any marinade. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok over medium-high, add the pork and cook for 5-6 minutes, turning often, or until browned all over. Transfer the pork to a small saucepan with the reserved marinade, sugar and 500 ml (2 cups) of the pork stock (pork will not be covered in liquid). Bring the liquid to a simmer then reduce heat to low, cover the pan then cook the pork for about 1 hour 30 minutes, turning once, or until tender. Remove the pan from the heat.
Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium-high. When it is hot, add the strips of won ton wrappers, in batches if necessary, and cook for 60 - 90 seconds or until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon remove to a kitchen-paper lined plate to drain excess oil. Meanwhile, bring the remaining pork stock to a simmer, cover and keep hot
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the noodles then cook for 10-15 minutes, or according to manufacturer’s instructions, until tender. Drain well. Divide the lettuce among 4 large bowls then place the noodles and half of the sprouts over the noodles. Slice the pork thinly then divide among the bowls with the hot pork braising liquid. Scatter over the crisp fried wrappers.
Pour the hot pork stock in the pan into individual bowls and sprinkle each with some green onion. Place the herbs, lime wedges and remaining bean sprouts on a platter for diners to help themselves. Serve with Sriracha.
• You can make the stock prior and keep refrigerated for up to a week until required.
Photography by Sharyn Cairns. Styling by Lee Blaylock. Food preparation by Tiffany Page.