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Noodles at Hoi An's Central Market

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The Cao Lau Maker thành phố Hội An  Vietnam
The World's Most Clandestine Noodle thành phố Hội An  Vietnam
The Cao Lau Maker thành phố Hội An  Vietnam
The World's Most Clandestine Noodle thành phố Hội An  Vietnam
The Cao Lau Maker
When I traveled to Hoi An, the prettied-up UNESCO-protected town on Vietnam's central coast for AFAR, I wanted to unravel the mysteries of the town's iconic (and secretive) noodle (and noodle dish of the same name), cao lau. One family has had a monopoly on making the noodle for generations and no one knows exactly how it's made. After some work (and talking to the right people), I was allowed into the family's lair. The above photo shows Em, the family patriarch, pounding away at the rice dough that is steamed and, eventually, formed into the thick, chewy noodles known as cao lau.
The World's Most Clandestine Noodle
Cao lau noodles for sale at the market in central Hoi An, Vietnam. One family has had a stronghold on making this noodle, which, in theory, can only be made in Hoi An, thanks to a dependence on local ingredients.

They're so paranoid...I mean, um, secretive about cao lau, seconds after this picture was taken, I was told that unless I left immediately, I would be walking away, like a noodle, limping. Well, okay, it probably wasn't exactly that. But they did say something in Vietnamese that suggested I stop photographing the noodles.
The World's Most Clandestine Noodle thành phố Hội An  Vietnam

Ba Le well
Don't forget that the noodles have to be made with water from the Ba Le well in Hoi An.

73 Phan Bội Châu Sơn Phong tp. Hội An Sơn Phong tp. Hội An Quảng Nam 越南, Cẩm Châu, Hội An, Quảng Nam, Vietnam
Sun - Sat 5am - 4pm