Where to Find the Best Cao Lau in Hoi An (You NEED to Try This!)

Cao Lau Hoi An Vietnam

Cao Lau is one of our favorite dishes in Vietnam and something we always crave along our travels. Hailing from the small town of Hoi An, the unique Cao Lau noodles make for the perfect bowl every traveler will enjoy. So where can you find the best Cao Lau in Hoi An? Here’s everything you need to know about this famous street food and tips from our own eating adventures.

What is Cao Lau?

Cao Lau is an amazing noodle dish from Central Vietnam! So what makes it so special? 

Well, for starters the real Cao Lau noodles can only be found in the ancient town of Hoi An. This is because the special noodle-making process starts with water from a local well. 

The lye solution which is mixed in comes from the nearby Cham Islands. You can actually see the island off the shores from Hoi An’s popular beaches, and can even take a boat ride here.

Every bowl of Cao Lau will come with these thick rice noodles and slices of pork loin on top. We’ve eaten many types of noodles all around Southeast Asia, and these are different from any others.

Cao Lau noodles are thick and dense, but chewy in the best way possible. They aren’t super long like pho noodles, but instead about half the size. 

Other common ingredients include soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic, spices, fresh herbs, and various veggies. Know that anything added to it completely depends on the cook’s preference. No Cao Lau in Hoi An will be exactly the same!

Typically, you will have bean sprouts, sliced lime, and chili sauce on the side. There will also be a small amount of broth on the bottom that truly soaks in the flavors.

Cao Lau translates in English to “high storey.” The origin of the name comes from years ago, when merchants chose to eat their meals on the top floors of Hoi An port to watch over their storefronts. 

Cao Lau

Where is the Best Cao Lau in Hoi An?

There are so many places to try this Vietnamese cuisine all around Hoi An. For an authentic experience, we recommend grabbing your first Cao Lau at the Hoi An market. 

This local market is located in the center of town along the Thu Bon River. There are endless stands inside serving bowls of this delicious dish. 

However, our absolute favorite is right in the center of the market. Hai Chien Cao Lau is always our first stop when visiting Hoi An. 

The women here has been cooking this famous dish for decades! You can find her by the photo she has of Anthony Bourdain who once ate here and raved about it. Also, be sure to grab a fresh juice or cafe sua da at the stand next door to go along with your Cao Lau noodles. 

Over the course of several visits to Hoi An we have eaten dozens of bowls of Cao Lau from here! On our first visit to Vietnam (almost 10 years ago) we asked her if she makes Bun Bo which was our favorite soup at the time. 

She didn’t even have it on her menu, but she said yes and quickly ran outside to buy ingredients from her friends. While we have now switched to her delicious Cao Lau, we’ve been loyal customs ever since. 

Cao Lau Hoi An Market

Best Cao Lau in Hoi An

Cao Lau in Hoi An

What to Eat Besides Cao Lau in Hoi An

We were amazed by the food in Hoi An from our very first trip. Central Vietnam is home to countless dishes that will truly blow your mind. 

Of course, you can find Vietnamese classics such as Banh Mi’s, Pho Soup, fresh spring rolls, and Bun Bo Hue. Yet, there are so many more great dishes to taste from the Quang Nam province. 

Also, be sure to visit the city of Da Nang which is just a quick drive away. Here you can hit the beach, explore the markets, and try more incredible local specialties. 

→ 18 Amazing Things to Do in Da Nang Vietnam (+ Fun Day Trips!)

My Khe Beach Da Nang Vietnam

More Amazing Dishes to Try After Cao Lau Hoi An

Mi Quang: One thing you need to try after Cao Lau is Mi Quang. It’s made with yellow noodles, herbs, vegetables, rice crackers, and quail eggs. Some popular toppings include chicken, pork slices, and shrimp.

Com Ga: Hoi An has its own version of Hainanese chicken rice. It was brought over by Chinese immigrants and they’ve added their own unique flavors to it.

Grilled Meat Skewers: It may sound bland at first, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Grilled beef is marinated in a wild spicy and sweet mixture. You’re then given wet rice paper to wrap the meat in with vegetables which creates a delicious chewy texture.

Banh Xeo: Also known as the Vietnamese pancake, this dish can be found all over the country. The unique features include pork skewers which you wrap in the crispy crepe with rice and fresh vegetables. The pancakes are usually smaller in Hoi An, but they’re packed with tremendous flavor in each bite.

White Rose Dumplings: These beautiful little dumplings are a specialty dish of Hoi An. You’ll find pork, shrimp, or mushrooms on the inside, and they’re topped with crispy shallots. 

Bo Ne: For breakfast, we recommend stopping in somewhere for a sizzling steak and eggs. Bo Ne is a hearty meal served on a hot plate to enjoy. 

Banh Mi: If you are in the mood for a Vietnamese sandwich then you can’t miss the Queen! Madam Khahn has one of our favorite Banh Mi’s in the country and we always make several trips here in Hoi An. Also, check out Banh mi Phuong which is another popular bánh mì shop down the street.

Mango Cake: Ready for dessert after trying more of Hoi An’s dishes? Surprisingly, the name comes from its shape as there are no mangos in it. Instead, you’ll taste a combo of sticky local rice and Japanese mochi. It will be easy to find a mango cake as they’re sold by many of the street food vendors around town. 

→ Best Vietnam Food: 34 Delicious Dishes to Try On Your First Visit

What to Eat in Hoi An

Best Things to do in Hoi An

After you’ve tried Cao Lau and more of the best food in Hoi An, know that there is so much to do and see. This town is a must-visit destination in Southeast Asia, and should be totally included in your Vietnam itinerary

One of our favorite activities is to rent a bicycle to cruise through town and out to the scenic rice paddies. There is so much beauty to discover outside of the hustle and bustle of Hoi An Old Town and bikes are offered at most hotels. 

Another fun thing to do is to explore the temples and french colonial architecture. Many of the structures date back to the 17th century and the entire town is a Unesco World Heritage Site. 

When you get a little thirsty, head to one of the many rooftop bars and cafes around Hoi An. Here you can try a fresh beer or sip on a coffee while overlooking the town.

Much of Hoi An’s best attractions are found around the river. You can even take a boat ride from here and experience local life on the outskirts of town. 

On the other side of the river you’ll find the Hoi An Night Market. This is where you can check out the popular silk lanterns that light up after dark. These can be a great gift to bring home for someone. We also enjoy getting homemade dresses and silk clothing tailored around the market area. 

Our favorite day trips from Hoi An include My Son Sanctuary and Marble Mountain. Be sure to check out our full article about the best things to do in Hoi An below!

→ 21 Amazing Things to Do in Hoi An Vietnam: Ancient Town & More!

Hoi An Vietnam Guide

Where to Stay in Hoi An Vietnam

There are so many wonderful places to stay in Hoi An! You can find everything from luxury beachside villas to budget hostels, and romantic bed and breakfasts on the river. In addition to the options below, here’s a list of our favorite boutique hotels in Hoi An to check out around Old Town.

Ultra Luxury – Little Riverside Hoi An – Beautiful upscale hotel & spa located on the river just down the street from the central market. The highlight of the hotel is the outdoor pool facing the banks of the Thu Bon river.

Apartment – Quang Vinh Apartment and Hotel Hoi An – Our home away from home for every visit to Hoi An Vietnam. Bright rooms, a wonderful rooftop pool, and quick walk to the Hoi An Night Market.

Fun Vacation – Hoi An Riverside Villas & Apartments – Just outside the busy streets of Hoi An Old Town. Enjoy a stay overlooking the rice paddies while still being a bicycle ride away from everything. 

Hostel Stay – Cheerful Hoi An Hostel – Cute local hostel that is super popular with backpackers visiting the area. Good option to meet other travelers and has a buffet breakfast included.

Hoi An Vietnam Cao Lau

Have any questions about this article or want to share where to find the best Cao Lau in Hoi An? Leave us a comment!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

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Vietnam Travel Planning 

Transportation: 12Go is what we use to book ferries, trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Vietnam! 

 Flights: For cheap flight deals check out Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we found flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Phu Quoc for $20 USD and Vietnam to Thailand for less than $50! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for hotels such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

Tours: Get Your Guide is an amazing place to find fun activities all over Vietnam! There is everything from a Hanoi Cooking Class and market tour to a Mekong Delta Pagoda & rowing boat trip, and even the Phu Quoc Cable Car Ride with three island snorkeling tour! 

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without insurance. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years and they are always there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Vietnam Travel

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  1. Valerie
    December 23, 2023 / 10:21 am

    I haven’t had the chance to visit Vietnam yet, but I’ve tried some Vietnamese food! (Spring Rolls and Pho for the win!) What I love about Southeast Asian food is the abundance of herbs and spices! Definitely going to try this dish if I happen to go to Vietnam in the future!

    • Brigitte & Jake
      December 23, 2023 / 10:31 am

      The food in Vietnam is soooo good. Definitely try Cao Lau if you make it to Hoi An on your trip!

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