Bun Dau Mam Tom (or Vietnamese Noodle with Fried Tofu and Shrimp Paste) is one of the most well-loved dishes in Vietnam, originating in the capital Hanoi. Unlike others amazing Vietnamese food creations like Pho, Bun Cha, Banh Mi, you name it; Bun Dau Mam Tom has a completely different charm that can be hard to accept at first but grow on you gradually and become your favorite dish without you knowing. It is an acquired taste, I would say. Walking through the renowned Old Quarter of Hanoi, if you get a sniff of a specially strong smell, chances are you have come across our star of the day. Bun Dau Mam Tom is even smellier than durian. I know it sounds so unappetizing when hearing that. But hopefully, this article will give you a different view and convince you to give it a try.
As its name tells it all, Bun Dau Mam Tom features 3 major ingredients: Bun means vermicelli noodle in English, Dau means Tofu, and Mam Tom is Shrimp Sauce. However, these days, most street vendors also serve boiled pork and Cha Com (Green Rice Pork Pies) to give the dish a more meatiness texture. You can order small intestine of pig, large intestine of pig that is stuffed with veggies and grilled, and fried spring rolls as extra options. All the ingredients are quite simple and easy to find.
Steps of making Vietnamese Noodle with Fried Tofu and Shrimp Paste
You can tell a good Bun Dau Mam Tom by the fried tofu and shrimp paste they serve. The tofu should be well deep fried until it turns yellow on the outside but still retains moisture, softness and original taste on the inside. There is no better appetite booster than these golden and crispy pieces of tofu, I guarantee.
And for the most interesting element, the key to a delicious Bun Dau Mam Tom – shrimp paste, the cooking method is pretty straightforward. People normally add sugar, minced garlic, chili, lime, and a spoon of hot oil to Mam Tom to make it more flavor, then stir the paste before enjoying. However, you would taste different Mam Tom in every vendor you go to. It largely depends on the ratios of those many ingredients; and each recipe lies behind that is probably tested for decades and run through family generations. A good shrimp paste should not be too thick, but still has the distinctive sour and spicy flavor. On the side, perilla leaf, fish mint or cucumber will arrive on a separate dish. They help to increase the flavor of the dish and reduce the strong smell of Mam Tom.
How to savor this amazing dish
To eat, dinners just use chopsticks to get a little bit of rice noodles, a piece of tofu and some leaves of herbs, cucumber slices and dip into the fermented shrimp paste dip in a small bowl. Then tuck in to feel the amazing taste as well as the perfect blends of crispy tofu, tender noodles, fresh herbs and strange flavor of fermented shrimp paste. If you find the smell of Mam Tom too bizarre, ask the seller for a bowl of fish sauce instead. It will still taste good, in a different way.
Where to eat Vietnamese Noodle with Fried Tofu and Shrimp Paste
You can find Bun Dau Mam Tom across the country, mostly in street vendors. Some of the best Bun Dau eateries lie in the Old Quarter, of course, our Hanoi’s culinary center. Diners perch on low plastic stools, sit elbow-to-elbow to strangers while munching their bowls of awesomeness. 2 restaurants I highly recommend include:
Bun dau Viet: 27/31 Hang Khay
They say that the best shrimp paste when stirred with oil, makes an airy soft mixture. That’s exactly what the ‘bun dau’ place at Hang Khay offers.
Bun dau Huong: 55 Phat Loc
Phat Loc has been the high street ‘bun dau’ among others. Sitting in the Old Quarter, Phat Loc Alley is the most reachable for anyone craving for a ‘bun dau’. With a length is less than 100 meters, Phat Loc alley is always crowded, especially, having many delicious dishes in the afternoon, including the most popular is noodle with fried tofu and shrimp paste.
The price of Vietnamese Noodle with Fried Tofu and Shrimp Paste is insanely affordable: from 20,000VND ($0.8) if you have fried tofu only to 50,000VND ($2.2) if you want to try all fried tofu, Cha com, and boiled pork.
Doesn’t Bun Dau Mam Tom sound attracting enough for you? Hurry up, come to Vietnam and give it a try!
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