food for thought

by michelle

secret recipes

with 2 comments

On every menu in Hoi An you will find the local speciality of bánh bao vac or white rose dumplings.


The recipe remains a secret which is held by one family. The current keeper of the secret is Tran Tuan Ngai whose grandfather first started making these dumplings for his family. He now supplies every restaurant in Hoi An. The dumplings are apparently made with rice from the Mekong Delta and water from the thousand-year-old Ba Le well (filtered and purified 15 to 20 times). Rolled into circles and filled with a spiced shrimp paste, the dumplings are steamed and this causes them to pucker and resemble a rose. They are then served with crisply fried shallots and fresh chilli. Although I can’t impart the dumpling recipe I have learnt how the shallots are fried and the result is much better than those available at Asian grocery stores. Place 1 cup of sliced brown shallots into one cup of cold peanut oil in a small saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer, stirring with chopsticks, for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Drain well on paper towel. The flavoured oil can be used in other cooking.

Another Hoi An speciality is cao lau. These are noodles made with rice soaked in water from the well and a lye solution (made from the ash of a particular tree ). These ingredients give the noodles their distinctive chewiness and brown colour. The same noodle batter is also made into thin squares and both are sold at the markets in Hoi An.


The serving of these noodles can vary a little from cook to cook. They are normally served with salad greens, bean sprouts, sliced roast pork, crisp fried cao lau squares and a little pork stock. Chilli is optional.


Written by michelle picker

March 29, 2013 at 5:59 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] asian basil, 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon of fried shallots and some of the oil (see secret recipes) and 1 tablespoon of sugar. The dressing was made with the juice of 1 lime, 1 teaspoon each of fish […]

  2. […] noodles are placed in the bowl along with  very finely sliced raw beef, fried shallots (see secret recipes) and spring onions and the boiling stock is poured over them. Served with the soup are fresh herbs […]

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