It’s stinky, yet addicting and it is the soul of Hanoi signature cuisine. Regarded as one of the most extreme Vietnamese food, it can be quite a challenge for international visitors to enjoy the dish, mainly because of the somewhat overpowering smell. However, there’s no way you can have a more authentic culinary experience in Hanoi without trying some bun dau mam tom.
First and foremost, let’s break down the name: bún stands for rice vermicelli, đậu is tofu, and mắm tôm is fermented shrimp paste. This is the basic and most common combination of the dish, which means there is a host of other side dishes for you to choose from ranging from boiled pork to fried intestines, and chả cốm - a type of fried patty. And in the true Vietnamese style, there would always be fresh veggies like Vietnamese balm and fish mint, and some slices of cucumbers adding to the taste.
Bun dau mam tom can never be completed without some vegetables
The rice vermicelli is compacted to form bigger pieces in a flat shape and the tofu is fried to perfection right before it is served to the customers. Tofu is usually homemade and is well deep fried till it turns to a brownish and golden color which gives the crunchy texture outside while retaining the softness and moisture inside. Finally, the condiment that wovens everything together - shrimp paste - is the secret to a good bun dau mam tom. It should not be either too thick or too salty, and usually, each vendor will have their secret recipe to a perfectly balanced shrimp paste.
Frankly speaking, all you will need is courage and undying love for food. The second step is to mix the shrimp paste so that it suits your taste: some kumquat juice, a bit of sugar and some slices of fresh chilies.
It takes adventurous spirits to try shrimp paste
However, if the pungent smell of the shrimp paste still puts you off, then you can ask for other alternatives such as fish sauce or soy sauce to enjoy bun dau mam tom.
See more of the Vietnamese dipping sauces
Bun dau mam tom originates in Northern Vietnam and has been the locals' favorite ever since. One serving costs around VND 25,000 - 40,000. Here are our suggestions on where to try bun dau mam tom in Hanoi.
Address: 6 Ma May Street, Hoan Kiem District
Opening hour: 10:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Address: 4 Ngo Gach, Hang Buom, Hoan Kiem District
Opening hour: 7:30 AM - 1:30 PM
Address: 1B Ngo Tram, Hoan Kiem District
Opening hour: 8:30 AM - 3 PM
Address: 235B Thuy Khue, Tay Ho District
Opening hour: 9 AM - 9:30 PM
Besides that, bun dau mam tom holds a special place in the Saigonese hearts. Here are the places to try bun dau mam tom in Ho Chi Minh City:
Addresses: 01 Nguyen Van Trang, District 1
6 Truong Dinh (52 Le Lai), District 1
104 Hoang Dieu, District 4
Bun Dau Homemade
Opening hour: 10 AM - 10 PM
Price range: VND 35,000 - VND 70,000
Address: 26 Cong Quynh, District 1
Opening time: 10 AM - 10 PM
Price range: VND 60,000
Bun Dau Co Khan is owned by a Vietnamese model from the North
Addresses: 200 Nguyen Trai, District 1
442 - 444 Phan Xich Long, Phu Nhuan District
Opening time: 8 AM - 11 PM
Price range: VND 55,000
Based on the crowds, you can see how the locals love their bun dau
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More on Hanoi cuisine in Saigon
It may sound (and smell) intimidating at first, but once you get over the not-so-nice first impression, the taste of bun dau mam tom is such a rewarding sensation. We all have heard and known about the craze over pho and bun bo, this time try something more unique from the Vietnamese cuisine for a change.
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© Written by Kim Hoang for itourvn.com