Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm is an iconic street food of Hanoi. It features rice vermicelli served with fried tofu and fermented shrimp sauce.

This dish isn’t for the timid, as Mắm Tôm, the pungent and aromatic fermented shrimp sauce, packs a bold flavor punch. Yet, once you acquire a taste for it, you’ll be absolutely hooked.

A plate of Bun Dau Mam Tom

I used to believe that Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm wasn’t for non-Vietnamese natives, until I stumbled upon this article in The New York Times.

It left me in awe. A restaurant with a completely Vietnamese concept (reminiscent of a Hanoi street food eatery) and offering a menu full of authentic Hanoi dishes has been warmly embraced by New York locals.

In Germany, sometimes I prepare this dish with my Hanoi friend. It doesn’t take much time, and the flavor is absolutely worth it. Even if you find fermented shrimp paste challenging, you can still enjoy the dish with the popular Vietnamese dipping fish sauce.

🙋‍♀️ What is “Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm”?

A plate of Bun Dau Mam Tom

In Vietnamese, “Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm” literally translates to “Rice vermicelli served with fried tofu and fermented shrimp sauce.” Initially, it was popular among the blue-collar class in Hanoi, as all the ingredients, like rice noodles, tofu, shrimp paste, and fresh herbs, were affordable and easy to access.

As Vietnam’s economy grew, people elevated this humble dish by adding more meat-based toppings, such as:

  • Nem Rán: Hanoi fried spring rolls.
  • Chả Cốm: fried pork sausage with young rice flakes. I sometimes substitute it with Chả Lụa (Vietnamese pork roll).
  • Thịt Luộc: boiled pork belly or pork trotter.
  • Lòng Rán: fried pork intestine.
  • Dồi Huyết: blood sausages.

❤️ What makes this dish special?

In addition to the toppings such as fried tofu and various meat-based options, it is traditionally served with Mắm Tôm shrimp paste, pressed rice vermicelli and an abundance of Northern herbs.

Mắm Tôm (Northern fermented shrimp paste)

It is a stinky and pungent condiment, but it is rich in umami flavor. Whether used as a dipping sauce or a seasoning, it significantly enhances the overall taste of a dish.

A jar of Mam Tom

When I was a child, I couldn’t tolerate this smelly condiment, but as I grew up, I realized that many dishes, such as Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm, Chả Cá Lã Vọng, Bún Mọc or Bún Riêu , simply aren’t complete without Mắm Tôm.

Don’t confuse Mắm Tôm with Mắm Ruốc (another fermented shrimp paste from Huế). It’s used to cook Bún Bò Huế (Huế spicy beef noodle soup).

Herbs

The abundance of Vietnamese herbs served alongside also helps balance the flavors.

Some popular herbs for Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm include Rau Kinh Giới (Vietnamese Balm or Cockscomb Mint), Tía Tô (Vietnamese Perilla), Húng Quế (Thai Basil), Húng Láng (Hanoi Basil), lettuce, and cucumber.

Rice Noodles

Another distinctive feature is the pressed rice vermicelli, known as Bún Lá (Leaf Rice noodles) in Vietnam. Instead of being individually separated, the rice noodles are pressed into a block. This block is then cut into pieces, making it easier for people to dip the rice noodles into the shrimp paste sauce.

🍜 Ingredients

Well, this dish is much simpler than what I mentioned. Only rice noodles, tofu, herbs, and dipping sauces (Mắm Tôm or Nước Mắm Chấm) are must-haves; other toppings are optional.

  • Dry rice vermicelli: use thin round rice vermicelli (“Bún” in Vietnamese)
  • Medium-firm tofu: it’s the best to choose freshly-made tofu from Asian markets.
  • Mắm tôm (fermented shrimp paste) or Northern-style nước mắm (if you can’t handle mắm tôm)
a bowl of Mam Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste)
Mắm Tôm Shrimp Paste Sauce
Close-up of a bowl filled with Hanoi-style dipping fish sauce, garnished with sliced carrots, kohlrabi.
Northern-style Dipping Fish Sauce
  • Herbs and vegetables such as Vietnamese balm / Cockscomb Mint, Vietnamese Perilla Leaf, and Thai Basil can be found at Asian markets (mint works just as well). Don’t forget lettuce and cucumber.
  • And perhaps some additional toppings like Nem Rán (Hanoi Spring Rolls), Thịt Luộc (Boiled Pork Belly) or Chả Lụa (Vietnamese Ham) if you prefer.

For Mắm Tôm , you will need:

Ingredients for Mắm Tôm: Mắm Tôm Shrimp Paste, Calamansi, Chili, Shallots
  • Mắm Tôm (Vietnamese Fermented Shimp Paste): opt for the Vietnamese brand and don’t confuse it with Mắm Ruốc (another kind of shrimp paste).
  • Calamansi (the best choice) or lime / lemon / rice vinegar. Calamansi is also used to make Toyomansi , a popular Filippino dipping sauce for Siomai.
  • Sugar
  • Shallots (for making fried shallots and shallot oil): They help balance the strong aroma of Mắm Tôm.
  • Chili
  • MSG (optional)

For Northern dipping fish sauce:

Ingredients for Hanoi-styed dipping fishsauce: carrots, kohlrabi, garlic, chili
  • The pickle: carrots, kohlrabi (or green papaya, cucumber), salt, sugar, and rice vinegar.
  • The fish sauce: fish sauce, rice vinegar (or lemon / lime juice), sugar, garlic, chili, and black pepper powder.

📝 Instructions

PRESSED RICE NOODLES:

  • Boil the dry noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain the rice noodles (no rinse).
  • Spread the drained noodles on a tray. You can determine how thick you want your noodle block to be.
  • Next, place a plate or cutting board on top of the rice noodles, and add some weight (I use a pot filled with water). Let them sit for 30 minutes.
  • Use a knife to cut the block of noodles into bite-sized parallelogram-shaped pieces.
Place a plate on the vermicelli rice noodles.
Place a pot of water as a weight on the plate.
Pressed rice noodles
A plate of Bun Dau Mam Tom

HERBS & VEGGIES:

  • Pick the leaves of the herbs and lettuce. Gently wash and drain them well.
  • Wash the cucumber and thinly slice it.

TOFU:

  • Cut the tofu into cubes.
  • Fry the tofu cubes until they’re golden and crispy on the outside.
fry the tofu

VIETNAMESE HAM (CHẢ LỤA) (OPTIONAL):

The traditional recipe uses Chả Cốm (pork paste with young rice flakes). However, Vietnamese Ham is much more readily available at Asian markets.

  • Cut it into thin slices and fry them until they are crispy.
fry Vietnamese Ham (Chả Lụa)

PORK BELLY / PORK TROTTER (OPTIONAL):

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil, incorporating some shallots (or scallions, ginger, etc.) as aromatics to help eliminate the pork’s odor.
  • Add the pork belly or pork trotter and simmer until there is no visible pink or red color when piercing the meat with a chopstick.
  • Remove the meat from the pot and allow it to cool down completely.
  • Thinly slice the pork.

Boiled pork belly is also a key ingredient in Gỏi Cuốn (Vietnamese fresh spring rolls).

Instructions for Goi cuon Recipe - Vietnamese Prawn & Pork Summer Rolls

NEM RÁN (HANOI FRIED SPRING ROLLS) (OPTIONAL):

  • Prepare Nem Rán ahead; they can be frozen for months.
  • Reheat the spring rolls by deep-frying or air-frying.
  • Cut the spring rolls diagonally.

Note: Only use Hanoi-style spring rolls. Saigon-style spring rolls or egg rolls (chả giò) are not suitable.

A platter of Hanoi spring rolls, showcasing their crispy golden exterior and flavorful filling, served with a side of dipping sauce

🥣 Dipping Sauces

Mắm Tôm (Fermented Shrimp Paste)

  • In a bowl, blend the shrimp paste with sugar, MSG (optional) and calamansi juice.
  • In a pan, heat some oil, add the sliced shallots, and fry until they turn slightly golden.
a bowl of mam tom
frying the shallots
  • Combine the fried shallots and some hot oil with the shrimp paste mixture. Mix thoroughly.
  • Add slices of chili to taste, and your Mắm Tôm is now ready.
a bowl of Mam Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste)

Nước Mắm Chấm (Dipping Fish Sauce) (in case you can’t handle Mắm Tôm)

  • Peel the kohlrabi and carrot, then slice them thinly.
  • Mix the vegetables with salt and sugar, and let them rest for 15 minutes.
thinly sclied kohlrabi
kohlrabi and carrot mixed with sugar and salt
  • In a separate bowl, blend fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, chili, garlic, and black pepper.
  • Add the carrot and kohlrabi (after draining the brine) into the fish sauce mixture.
Close-up of a bowl filled with Hanoi-style dipping fish sauce, garnished with sliced carrots, kohlrabi.

🥢 Assemble and Enjoy

Bun Dau Mam Tom 1
  • Arrange all the ingredients on a large platter: rice noodles, fried tofu, boiled pork, spring rolls, Vietnamese ham, herbs, and vegetables.
  • Dip each item into the dipping sauce and enjoy!!

🌟 Helpful Tips

  • Use freshly-made tofu from an Asian market for the best flavor.
  • Use only Hanoi-style spring rolls; Saigon-style spring rolls / egg rolls (chả giò) are not suitable.
  • If you can’t find authentic herbs like Vietnamese Balm and Vietnamese Perilla, mint and Thai basil are good alternatives.
  • For Mắm Tôm dipping sauce, you can substitute calamansi juice with lime/lemon juice or rice vinegar.

Did you find this recipe helpful?

Please leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating in the recipe card below! Your support means the world to me! It would greatly inspire me to create more valuable content about Vietnamese and Asian cuisines. Thank you and have a nice day!! Don’t forget to stay in touch with me on Instagram, FacebookPinterestYouTube 🥰.

A plate of Bun Dau Mam Tom

Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm: Vietnamese noodles for adventurous palate

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Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm, a cherished Hanoi street food, features rice vermicelli with fried tofu and pungent fermented shrimp sauce. Once you acquire the taste, you'll be hooked!
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Course Main Course
Cuisine Vietnamese
Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • 1 nonstick pan
  • 1 tray
  • 1 Cutting Board (smaller in size to fit the tray)
  • 1 Pot (to use as a weight to press the rice noodles)

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pack Thin round rice noodles (or "Bún" in Vietnamese)
  • 2 packs Medium-firm tofu (read my note 1)
  • Cooking oil

Other toppings are optional but highly recommend (be around 1.5 lbs / 700g in total)

  • 0.5 lbs Vietnamese Ham (Chả Lụa) (230g) (store-bought or homemade)
  • 0.5 lbs Pork Belly or Pork Trotter (230g)
  • 1 Shallot (or scallions or a small piece of ginger)
  • 0.5 lbs Nem Rán (Hanoi-style spring rolls) (230g) (read my note 2 about the spring rolls)

Herbs & Vegetables

  • Vietnamese Balm / Cockscomb Mint (Kinh Giới) (read my note 3 about the herbs)
  • Vietnamese Perilla (Tía Tô)
  • Thai Basil (Húng Quế)
  • Mint
  • Cucumber
  • Lettuce

Fermented Shrimp Paste Dipping Sauce (Mắm Tôm)

  • 4 tbsp Mắm Tôm (Fermented Shrimp Paste)
  • 4 tbsp Sugar (to your taste)
  • 1 pinch MSG (optional)
  • 8 Calamansi (only juice) (to your taste) (read my note 4 about substitutes)
  • 3 tbsp Thinly sliced shallots
  • 3 tbsp Cooking oil
  • Chili (sliced) (to your taste)

Nước Mắm Chấm (Northern-style Dipping Fish Sauce) (If you can't handle Mắm Tôm)

  • 3.5 oz Carrot (100g)
  • 7 oz Kohlrabi (Green Papaya / Cucumber) (200g)
  • 1 tsp Salt (for the pickle)
  • 2 tbsp Sugar (for the pickle)
  • 2 tbsp Rice Vinegar (5%)
  • 2 tbsp Fish sauce
  • 10 tbsp Water
  • tbsp Sugar
  • Minced garlic (to your taste)
  • Minced chili (to your taste)
  • Black pepper powder (to your taste)

Instructions
 

Vermicelli Rice Noodle:

  • Boil the dry noodles following the package instructions. Drain the rice noodles without rinsing.
  • Spread the drained noodles on a tray, adjusting the thickness to your preference.
  • Press the rice noodles with a plate or cutting board, and a weight on top (I use a water-filled pot). Allow them to rest for 30 minutes.
  • Finally, use a knife to cut the noodle block into bite-sized parallelogram-shaped pieces.

Veggies & Herbs:

  • Pluck the leaves from the herbs and lettuce. Gentle wash and drain them well.
  • Wash and thinly slice the cucumber.

Tofu:

  • Slice the tofu into cubes.
  • Fry the tofu until they turn golden with a crispy exterior.

Vietnamese Ham:

  • Thinly slice and fry them until crispy.

Pork Belly / Pork Trotter:

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil, adding shallots (or scallions, ginger, etc.) since aromatics help remove the pork's odor.
  • Simmer the pork belly or pork trotter until there is no visible pink or red color when pierced with a chopstick.
  • Take the meat out of the pot and let it cool completely.
  • Slice the pork thinly.

Nem Rán (Hanoi Fried Spring Rolls):

  • Prepare Nem Rán in advance using my recipe ; you can store them in the freezer for several months.
  • Reheat the spring rolls either by deep-frying or air-frying.
  • Then, cut them into smalll pieces.

Mắm Tôm (Fermented Shrimp Paste Dipping Sauce):

  • In a bowl, mix the shrimp paste with sugar, MSG (optional) and calamansi juice until well-combined
  • In a pan, heat some oil, add the sliced shallots, and fry until they become lightly golden.
  • Add the fried shallots with some hot oil into the shrimp paste mixture. Mix well.
  • Add chili slices to your liking, and your Mắm Tôm is ready to enjoy.

Nước Mắm Chấm (if you can't handle Mắm Tôm):

  • Peel the carrot and kohlrabi, then thinly slice them.
  • Combine the vegetables with salt and sugar, allowing them to rest for 15 minutes.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, chili, garlic, and black pepper.
  • Add the drained carrot and kohlrabi to the fish sauce mixture.

Assemble & Savor:

  • Arrange all the components on a spacious platter: rice noodles, fried tofu, boiled pork, spring rolls, Vietnamese ham, herbs, and vegetables.
  • Dip each element into the sauce and savor your meal!

Notes

  1. Opt for freshly-made tofu from an Asian market for the best flavor.
  2. Stick to Hanoi-style spring rolls; Saigon-style or egg rolls (chả giò) are not for this dish.
  3. If you can’t find authentic herbs like Vietnamese Balm and Vietnamese Perilla, mint and Thai basil are suitable replacements.
  4. In your Mắm Tôm dipping sauce, you can replace calamansi juice with lime/lemon juice or rice vinegar.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
5/5 - (49 votes)

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