cao lau noodles

Photographer: Adam

This is a great flavour packed dish that I enjoyed on a trip to Vietnam during last years Christmas holidays. Inspired by a cooking class that my wife and I attended in the little historic coastal trading port of Hoi An. The class began early in the morning with a bike ride along narrow pathways of flooded rice fields and through massive herb gardens, filled with an unbelievable variety of herbs, salad greens and flowers. The noodles in the dish are a famed local speciality, we were lucky enough to visit a family who have been making the noodles for many generations, the noodles are cut by hand and then smoked to create a great flavour.


500g pork loin
½ tsp Chinese five-spice seasoning
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 tbsp garlic, crushed
2 tsp sugar
Vegetable oil for frying
1 stick lemongrass
2 cups pork stock (alternatively chicken)
3 tbsp soy sauce
200g bean sprouts
500g thick Chinese wheat noodles, or ramen
100g mixed herbs: basil, coriander, mustard sprouts and chrysanthemum leaves
½ cup of deep-fried pita bread, cut into small squares (1cm)
½ cup spring onion cut into long lengths
4 sliced mild red and yellow chillis
Extra sugar


1. Mix the five spice, 2 tsp sugar, garlic, salt and pepper and coat the pork loin with the mixture set aside.
2. Add a little oil to a medium sized pan and add lemongrass, allow the fragrance to be released.
2. Add the coated pork to the pan and sear on all side.
3. Add the soy sauce, and a little more sugar to the pan and allow to caramelise and thicken, roll the pork loin in the caramelised sauce until it is complete coated
4. Add half the stock to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes or until the pork is just cooked through. Remove the pork and rest
5. Add the rest of the stock to the pan, and a teaspoon of sugar, bring to the boil then remove from the heat set aside for final plate-up.
5. Add the sprouts to a boiling pot of water for 30 seconds, and then add the noodles to the same pot, cook until noodles and soft.
6. Distribute noodles evenly into 4 serving bowls, portion out the deep fried pita bread and mixed herbs, finely add a few slices of the pork loin – thinly sliced to each bowl. Garnish with a couple of slices of chilli and 2 spoonfuls of the pork stock sauce.