Cau lao noodles are unique and special to Hoi An and are heavily influenced by the Japanese who came to the city trading the noodle in the 1700's. It looks like an udon noodle, but is very chewy.
- 400 g pork loin, cut into thirds
- 80 ml (⅓ cup) vegetable oil
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 400 g fresh cau lao noodles (see note)
- 4 green oak lettuce leaves, torn
- 1 small handful bean sprouts, blanched
- 1 small handful each watercress, round mint and lemon basil leaves
- 2 tsp Hoi An chilli sauce or Sriracha chilli sauce
- 1 cup crispy fried cau lao pieces or fried wonton wrappers (optional)
- 2 red chillies, sliced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp five-spice
- 2 red Asian shallots, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
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: 1 hour
1. For the marinade, place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Add the pork loin, toss to coat, cove and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight if time permits.
2. When ready to cook, remove the pork from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature.
3. Heat a drizzle of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Scrape the marinade off the pork back into the bowl, then pan-fry the pork until browned on both sides. Add the chicken stock and simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove two-thirds of the stock and pour into another saucepan, then increase the heat to high and simmer the pork until reduce by half, turning the pork occasionally to caramelise on both sides.
4. Transfer the pork to a chopping board and pour the caramelised sauce into the saucepan of stock and bring to the boil. Thinly slice the pork.
5. Cook the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute and drain well.
6. Divide the noodles, lettuce, bean sprouts, watercress, mint and lemon basil between 4 bowls. Top with the sliced pork and pour 125 ml (½ cup) boiling stock over the top. Add ½ teaspoon of Hoi An chilli sauce to each bowl and garnish with crispy cau lao pieces and sliced chilli.
• As the cau lao noodles are a regional specialty, you can easily substitute with the same amount of fresh udon noodles or 270 g dried brown or plain udon noodles. Cook the dried udon noodles according to packet directions and briefly rinse under tap water after cooking to firm up and remove starch.
Catch Luke Nguyen on the tracks dishing up Vietnamese fare in the brand-new series, Luke Nguyen's Railway Vietnam.