Food & Drinks

Bun Dau is known as the smelliest food in Vietnam

Bun Dau Mam Tom: The Smelliest Food in Vietnam

Hanoi is famous for its rich culture and savory foods. You will find hundreds of stalls all over Vietnam with different types of delicious dishes. Street food is the specialty of Vietnam. It is so common that you will find even the affluent class of Hanoi in the streets slurping on their favorite dishes.

The most common and popular Hanoi food is noodles. You will find them everywhere, from street carts to famous restaurants. According to a report, there are over 55 places in Vietnam where you can find hundreds of different kinds of noodles. The specialty of their noodles is that they are made up of rice. You will find many different shapes, sizes, and types of noodles. Their taste and color are different from each other.

The Vietnamese dish we are going to talk about today is called “Bun Dau Mam Tom.” This dish also comprises of the famous rice noodles along with some other savory combinations of sauces and seasoning.

What is Bun Dau Mam Tom?

Bun Dau Mam Tom, also known as Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste noodle is a favorite Vietnamese dish especially famous in northern and central Vietnam. It is a combination of three main ingredients: rice noodles, fried tofu, and fermented shrimp paste. The bun is the Vietnamese name for rice; dau stands for tofu while mam tom means shrimp sauce.

The popularity of Bun dau also lies in the unique taste and ingredients of its sauce. This sauce smells like hell, but its flavor is just the opposite. The blend of shrimp and sauce makes it the most delicious dish ever. The sauce of this dish defines it as “good” or “bad.” Many chefs also change the taste of this sauce by adding some extra pinch of lime, garlic, chili, sugar, and wine. There is also an option of mixing these spices in your dish yourself. So, there are various ways of enjoying this delicious Bun Dau mam tom.
Though this dish is a portion of typical street food, yet it is widely served in restaurants as a particular food as well. It is also regarded as the signature dish of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

Small and Taste:

Bun Dau is known as the smelliest Hanoi food. But that smell and unique taste are the key features which make it different from other Hanoi street foods.

The most prominent trait of bun dau mam tom is the smell of its shrimp sauce. Its odor is deemed to be foul and repulsive, and one might have a hard time adjusting to it. However, the smell is compensated by its strong taste and deliciously sweet flavor.

What makes the dish delicious?

Bun Dau Mam Tom holds a unique significance among the traditional Vietnamese dishes. The secret to the dish’s exceptional taste is its extraordinary shrimp sauce and specially cooked tofu.
The shrimp sauce is used as a dipping sauce. Its odor is minimized with lime juice. It uses a wide range of spices including chili pepper, salt, garlic and also boiled vegetables are added. The final paste must be neither too salty nor too thick. Finally, it is served in a half-filled, small-sized bowl with a pot of sugar and kumquat juice to be used as per customer’s choice. All the ingredients combine to present a finger-licking delicious shrimp sauce, which significantly enhances the elegance of the dish.

Tofu or Dau in Vietnamese is to be correctly deep fried in hot cooking oil until it attains a crunchy yellowish-golden texture from outside. However, from inside, it is kept soft, tender, and white while retaining its natural moisture. It is served with bun dau mam tom while still hot and just out of the pan. It’s fetching smell, and appealing color amplify the overall charm of the dish.
The meal is also often served with a slice of pork meat, sausages, and vegetables like cucumber and Perilla leaves. All combined present a flavorsome and mouth-watering dinner that one cannot resist.

Why is this dish so popular?

Bun Dau Mam Tom has become a byword in northern Vietnam especially in the cities of Hanoi and Saigon which are home to the country’s best bun dau mam tom’s centers. The secret to cuisine’s widespread popularity is its deliciously mouth-watering flavor wrapped in the pungent smell of shrimp sauce with specially shaped noodles and the appealing overall appearance of the dish when served.

The cuisine is also known for its healthy, pungent smell that might be a challenge to overcome for someone trying it for the first time, especially the tourists. That is why foreigners often regard the shrimp sauce as “smell like hell, taste like heaven.” However, once a person tries this dish, it makes them instantly fall in love with its delicious blend of juicy tofu and finger-licking sauce. That is why foreigners and tourists flock to the cities street vendors to dare face the cuisine’s strong odor to attain the flavorsome treasure that lies within.

Bun Dau Mam Tom uses a particular type of noodle known as Bun La. Unlike other noodles which are separated, bun la are served in leaf-shaped slabs. They are precisely boiled to give them a firm texture and are densely packed to form shaped more significant pieces of noodles. Only the most healthy, fresh, and accurately shaped rice noodles are used in the cuisine, which aids in boosting the savor and beauty of the dish.

The other most prominent aspect of the dish, which enhances its influence is its elegant appearance. The cuisine is served in northern Vietnam’s traditional platter known as met. It is a roundly-designed open container made from bamboo. The ingredients are carefully set on the plate with tofu and noodles occupying adjacent sides. The shrimp sauce is often placed inside the platter, but sometimes it is served separately. The dish is then served with vegetables, sausages, and chilies for some extra seasoning.
All combine to form a delectable, delicious meal which has gained much popularity in local food streets as well as among the foreigners. It is a must-try dish for all those food-lovers who wish to keep an account of traditional mouth-watering dishes in the market.

Is it expensive?

Bun Dau Mam Tom is one of the most selling and favorite street foods of Hanoi, Vietnam. But it is the food of the local people mostly. Due to its stinky odor, this food isn’t much popular among the tourist and foreigners due to its bad smell and thick texture. Due to the same reason, this dish isn’t expensive. Moreover, it is found all over Vietnam, in more than 60 provinces and cities.

To be more appropriate, the price of Bun dau mam tom is around 5 dollars, and one dish is sufficient for two persons. In only 5 dollars, you will get a fantastic combination of noodles, cheese, shrimp, and pork.

However, you should note here that since this dish is a specialty of the capital city of Hanoi, that is why you will find it in a much higher rate in the places which are away from Hanoi. So, you will need to pay 8-9 dollars if you aren’t in Hanoi.

Where to find the best Bun Dau Mam Tom in Saigon?

If you are outside Hanoi and want to enjoy the taste of this delicious dish, then the best place is Saigon. Many great restaurants in Saigon offer Bun Dau mam tom. However, the price will be a bit more as compared to Hanoi. This stinky but addicting dish is known as the soul of Vietnam, and that is why you can find it anywhere.

Same is the case with Saigon district. You can find its streets filled with the food carts of Hanoi dishes including Bun Dau mam tom. The top three places in Saigon, where you can find the best Bun Dau mam tom are the following:

Chu Manh Trinh located in District 1
Vo Thi Sau in District 3
Tran Quoc Toan in District 3

All of these three restaurants are located in Saigon and have a variety of Hanoi dishes, fresh and dry vegetables, and fruits. You can find almost every bounty of Vietnam in these three places. They are also famous for Vietnamese pickle.

Where to find the best Bun Dau Mam Tom in Hanoi?

Hanoi is filled with this dish immensely. There are so many hotels that you will find yourself stuck between all of these and confused about which one to try. To help you decide about the best places in Hanoi to try Bun Dau mam tom, we are here with the top three restaurants which are offering the best, well-cooked and most delicious Bun Dau mam tom.

Hang Khay street
Bun Dau Viet
Bun Dau cay do

These three restaurants are the most popular ones in Hanoi for their specialty in Bun dau. These hotels are long known for their uniqueness and taste. The restaurant Bun Dau cay do is also famous because David Beckham visited it back in 2014 and tried the delicious Bun dau dish here.

Final thoughts

Bun Dau Mam Tom is the most famous Vietnam dish after “pho” and “Bun Cha.” If you ever visit Hanoi, trying this dish should be among your priorities. This dish may seem daunting at first, and you may even get reluctant to try it, but once you experience its great taste, you are never going to stop. Your taste buds will thank you for rewarding them with this delightful and mouth-watering dish. Remember! Hunger isn’t a problem when you are in Hanoi!


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