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Greg Rodgers

The World's Rarest Noodles

By June 1, 2011

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cao lau noodles

Photo by Ansieee / Creative Commons

Second only to rice, noodles are undeniably synonymous with delicious Asian cuisine. Although every diameter, make, and shape of noodle can be found from China to Singapore, not all noodles are created equal.

Hong Kong and Southern China claim one of the rarest noodles in the world: Jook-sing noodles. Jook-sing noodles are made with duck eggs - not entirely unusual; however, tradition demands that the cook straddle a large, bamboo pole to roll and press the noodles before cutting.

Only a few restaurants in the world still prepare the noodles in the traditional manner. If you suddenly feel the urge for some Jook-sing noodles, your only option outside of Asia may be the Bamboodles restaurant located in San Gabriel, California near Los Angeles.

Perhaps even rarer than Jook-sing is Vietnam's cao lau noodle dish. Hailing from Hoi An -- a quaint, touristy town located in Central Vietnam -- cao lau cannot technically be prepared outside of the region. Authentic cao lau noodles must be cooked using lye made from wood ash taken from the islands outside of Hoi An.

As if that wasn't enough, the water used for broth must be ground water taken from ancient Cham wells found only in Hoi An! Centuries worth of minerals have dissolved into the water, giving it unique properties.

Although cao lau appears on every menu in Hoi An, finding the real deal prepared with Cham well water is slightly tricky. Avoid the tourist restaurants along the river; seek out the old women in the market area who sell only cao lau noodles at local prices.

I sampled cao lau noodles in Hoi An on a couple of occasions, but have no real way of knowing if I actually enjoyed the rarest noodle dish in the world or a mock imitation. Either way, they were delicious!

June 15, 2011 at 11:00 am
(1) Martha says:

I love Asian noodles, there are so many different kinds. I remember seeing the Jook-sing noodle technique on TV, probably on Yan Can Cook, and I think there used to be a Jook-sing noodle place in San Francisco years ago. I’ve never heard of cao lau though, sounds interesting.

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