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Rice vermicelli and fried tofu, served with shrimp paste sauce (bun dau mam tom)
If I am right then you never taste this dish: Bún đậu mắm tôm regardless that how often you've been to Vietnamese restaurant around the world. But if you have chance to visit Hanoi, wandering around its street, seeing roving vendors here and there, offering this popular lunchtime dish. Give it a try!
If you can't stand the pungent shrimp paste and the idea of put them into your mouth make you sick then ask for the alternative dipping sauce like fish sauce. I don't think they have the soy sauce ready here, but if you make it at home, and it's very easy to make, then a good new for vegetarians, tofu-herbs-rice vermicelli-and soy sauce is a delicious combination.
What's bun dau mam tom?
So what is bún đậu mắm tôm?
Bún: rice vermicelli
Mắm tôm: shrimp paste sauce
Bun-dau-mam-tom is basically a popular Hanoian dish (or Northern dish), offers at lunchtime and early afternoon, consists of fresh leaf rice vermicelli, fried tofu, shrimp paste dipping sauce and table salad (fragrant herbs). At some places, they also offer sliced boiled belly pork or/and terrine or/and young-green-rice cake (savoury).
How to eat
If you're not familiar to Vietnamese food, the pungent smell of shrimp paste might put you off, but if you could stop breathing for few seconds, as my Russian friends did, you'll enjoy it.
If doesn't work or if you couldn't bear the idea of eating fermented shrimp, ask for the alternative sauce.
How to eat:
1. Whisk (stir vigorously) the dipping sauce with kumquat or lime juice till fluffy and be careful: don't let any bit fall to your clothes, or you'll smell "beautifully" the whole day. Taste the sauce to know how you would dip rice vermicelli and tofu.
2. Pick a piece of bún or tofu with your chopsticks (or hand if you prefer), dip into dipping sauce - the rule of thumb - let 1/3 of the bún piece fall into the dipping sauce and go wild with the tofu. The combination is your choice, a bite of everything or a full mouth of tofu.
Where to eat
There are many places you could try this dish, the best way is following your intuition, look at the food vendor and the people sitting around so have the feeling whether it's a good place to taste.
However if you struggle, here are places suggested by Hanoiain for you to choose. The first one is the most famous but might be packed at lunchtime.
- Ngõ Trạm, Bún mắm tôm
- Phố Trung Yên, Bún đậu ông Đại
- Lý Thường Kiệt street, opposite Việt Đức high school
- 39A Lý Quốc Sư.
- The traffic - light area where Phạm Đình Hổ street cut Lò Đúc street.
- 31 Láng Hạ street: Bún đậu chị Thoa
- Đội Cấn Street: Bún đậu cô Hằng
- Núi Trúc street, around the middle .
- Hàng Than street: Bún đậu chị Nga ( sister Nga's bún đậu)
- Phan Phù Tiên lane: bún đậu chị Nga
- 82 Đại La street: Bún đậu chị Thư Đồng Rừng
- Ngõ 13 Lĩnh Nam: Quán chị Thương
How to make it at home
150-200g tofu, cut into 1/2"x 1"x 2" cubes
150-200g fresh bún lá, cut into 11/2"x1" pieces
3-5 twig of Vietnamese balm, washed
1 tbsp. shrimp paste
1/2 tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 bird eyes chilli, sliced
1. make the dipping sauce: combine all ingredients together and place on serving table. Before serving, add 1/2 tbsp. oil from the frying pan in step 2 and whisk.
2.Pour oil into a flat bottom pan, heat over medium-high heat till the oil hot, and searing tofu on both sides. Served with rice vermicelli (bún), dipping sauce and fragrant herb.