Hanoi Cuisine: Bun Dau Mam Tom

Nga Do
Not a luxurious or sophisticated dish, Bun Đau Mam Tom still is premier Hanoi street food which many visitors love to eat.
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Bun dau mam tom is basically chunks of tofu served in a hot soup on a bed of rice noodles with a dollop of shrimp paste. It’s an extremely popular meal that’s often overlooked by guidebooks and seldom-tried by tourists or even long term residents of Hanoi.

What is Bun Dau Mam Tom?

I bet you thought durian was probably the smelliest food you could find in Vietnam. 


Bun dau mam tom gives it a good run for its money. Like with durian, people can get addicted to it very easily and the fact is that it is one of the local’s favorite dishes – especially those from the north. 

Bun dau mam tom has 3 main ingredients: vermicelli noodle, fried tofu and shrimp paste. So, if you easily have access to these 3 main ingredients, you can become a vendor owner or even start your own F&B business in Vietnam. However, there is one kind of veggie called Vietnamese balm, accompanying other kinds of vegetables on the plate like perilla leaf, fish mint or cucumber, that play a really important role in making the delicious flavor in your mouth.

You can tell a good bun dau mam tom by the fried tofu and the shrimp paste they serve. The tofu should be well deep fried until it turns yellow on the outside but still can retain the moisture, softness and the original taste on the inside. The shrimp paste shouldn’t be too salty or too thick, but definitely it needs to have a specific sour taste from the lemon or kumquat served to you and the spice from the chili.

The restaurant/stall version of bun dau mam tom will have steamed pork, green rice pork nuggets, small intestine of pig, large intestine of pig that is stuffed with veggies and grilled, and fried spring rolls as extra options for you to choose. Order as you wish.

How to eat Bun Dau Mam Tom?

The simplicity of this dish might make you think that it is quite easy to eat. But nope, this is not the case.
  • First, a warning – The fried tofu will be extremely hot. Make sure you don’t burn your mouth.
  • Add kumquat/lime into your shrimp paste and mix with your chopsticks. The shrimp paste should be mixed well enough till you see it gets a frothy surface.
  • Every bite you take should include a Vietnamese palm leaf. You will be surprised by the interesting taste it creates.
  • If you can’t handle the shrimp paste, fish sauce or soy sauce can replace it. But you know… then what’s the point?
  • This dish is not a breakfast friendly dish. It is fermented shrimp paste and those who have a sensitive stomach might feel a little bit unpleasant after having it, especially in the morning.
  • If possible, you should shave before a bun dau mam tom feast. The smell will stay there till you wash your beard properly… jk! Actually, you will get some gum or a mint candy after your meal. No need to worry about the smell.

Where to find Bun Dau Mam Tom?

First of all, the rice noodles must come from Phu Do in Hanoi’s Tu Liem district, where rice noodle production is the village’s traditional trade. These rice noodles are much thinner than normal strands of bun you might sample around town. The Cha Com is made with green rice flakes (com) from Vong village and the mam tom comes from Thanh Hoa province.

People often just eat bun dau for lunch, so the restaurants are only open from 11am till 2pm. A bowl normally costs VND20,000 to VND25,000 so bun dau is universally adored. 

You can see well-heeled young professional women side by side with vendors in conical hats. You can find bun dau sold on the road side of a number of streets around Hanoi, but there are some best addresses for this dish that locals often visit.

Ma May Street

Another rival from the Old Quarter. Ma May boasts two ‘bun dau’ shops facing each other, both offering lovely crunchy fried tofu and bubbly shrimp paste. You can even choose soft or crispy tofu.

Hang Khay Street

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.

Phat Loc Alley

The first name that pops up when it comes to ‘bun dau’. 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. Entering into this small alley, you will see vermicelli stores along two sides.

Bun dau mam tom is great, but there are other hundreds of tasty Vietnamese dishes waiting for you to try in Hanoi! So, Hanoi tours is an extremely interesting experience, leaving the hotel, and our local guide will take you to the best munching spots in this capital! Beyond that, you’d better prepare for some awesome sightseeing experiences such as viewing beautiful lakes, catching sunsets, crossing bridges, and snaking through the beautiful Hanoi Old Quarter. 

Okay, now let’s go!

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