not pho

I NEED Percy giving Magnus sword fighting lessons while Jack continually tries to hit on Riptide.

(Also let’s talk about how Percy lowkey might get emotional because he remembers his first sword fighting instructor and like it or not, it’s still Luke’s voice that Percy hears in his head and Magnus notices the tears glimmering in Percy’s eyes but he pretends it’s just sweat)

Cao Lầu, Hoi An, Vietnam

This is cao lầu, the best bowl of noodles I’ve eaten in Vietnam. (Sorry, pho!)

Cao lầu is a super-localized dish that you can only enjoy in the historic town of Hoi An. According to local legend, the rice noodles used in the dish must be made with water from a secret well, and mixed with ash from wood collected from the nearly Cham Islands. Other than that, ingredients and toppings change from chef to chef and restaurant to restaurant, but the dish usually contains some kind of pork and herbs.

We’d tried a few versions around town and were unimpressed, to be honest, until we were walking back to our hotel one night and stumbled upon this set up…

A lone man under a tent in an alley preparing noodles dishes…

His kitchen…

A closer look at the ingredients…

The dining room…

We ordered and he got to work, cooking the noodles, adding the soup and methodically constructing the dish…

In less than two minutes, this beauty bowl arrived at our table…

His version of cao lầu, as seen here, featured two kinds of roast pork, the belly and the loin, and came topped with fried pork lard for crunch. There was also a layer of herbs under all those pork parts, which you mixed all together by yourself…

As you can see above, the noodles are quite thick, similar to udon in texture, but with a very distinct taste.

No soup. Just a few secret sauces and a touch of vinegar.

You added chilli sauce, homemade of course, on your own as well.

I still can’t get over how good this cao lầu was!! Every ingredient came together to form a perfect formula of flavor.

All through our “dinner”, we were watched over by this young fella, the chef’s grandson, who kept eyeing me like I was going to steal one of his ribs…

There’s no address I can give you here, however, I was told this tent goes up nightly as long as the weather’s good. To find this killer cao lầu in Hoi An, look for this address in Old Town and you should spot this streetside chef making magic in the alley after sunset…

Here’s one more look for good measure…