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Cao Lau: A Delicious Vietnamese Noodle Bowl


  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 pounds fresh thick Vietnamese-style rice noodles
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 cup torn lettuce leaves
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup crispy chow mein noodles, or more to taste


  1. Whisk soy sauce, garlic, five-spice powder, sugar, paprika, and bouillon granules together in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add pork; toss to evenly coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  2. Remove pork from marinade and shake off excess. Discard remaining marinade.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Cook and stir pork in hot oil until browned, 4 to 7 minutes. Add water; cook and stir until water evaporates and pork is cooked through, about 2 minutes more.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Rinse rice noodles under cold water and gently break noodles apart. Immerse noodles in boiling water until about half-tender, about 30 seconds. Add bean sprouts to water and noodles; continue cooking until noodles are tender yet firm to the bite, about 30 seconds more. Drain.
  5. Combine noodles and pork mixture together in a large serving dish. Top with lettuce, green onions, basil, cilantro, and chow mein.


  • Rice noodles are very easy to overcook. They should be quite firm (al dente). They can be overcooked in just a few seconds, turning soggy and pasty. It is best to use fresh Vietnamese-style rice noodles of about 1/4-inch thickness. If you have not cooked with these before, work it out on your own before planning this dish for guests. Don’t serve this dish with overcooked noodles.
  • You can substitute rice paper croutons or broken chicharonnes for the crispy chow mein noodles.

Editor’s Note:

The nutrition data for this recipe includes the full amount of the marinade ingredients. The actual amount of the marinade consumed will vary.

Cooking Time:

Prep Time:20 mins

Cook Time:15 mins

Additional Time: 1 hrs

Total Time: 1 hrs 35 mins


Nutrition Facts:

  • 488 Calories
  • 8g Fat
  • 78g Carbs
  • 24g Protein