Noodles, tofu and shrimp paste

It was one of the most trendy rice noodles dishes in Saigon, especially among the youth, back to few years ago, originated from Northern Hanoi. Nowadays it’s no longer in their bloom but we still enjoy it from time to time.

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Bún đậu – rice noodles with deep fried young tofu, shrimp paste at 55 Phất Lộc, Hanoi.

Few years ago when I came to Hanoi, one of Hanoi friends took me to the probably most famous place in Hanoi for this dish, he explained why famous, it’s related to maybe home-made fresh tofu or special herbs to go with this dish.

And what’s the shrimp paste ? It’s a kind of fermented sauce, like fish sauce, but made of shrimp, very strong smell and could provoke some disgusting feeling, but this sauce is involved in preparation of many famous dishes. We love to make a dipping sauce with this paste, we add sugar, lemon juice, red chili, probably garlic…and it’s incredibly tasty!

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Fresh rice noodles in Hanoi, braided as a leaf (bún lá) different from southern ones.

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 A bowl of bún đậu, don’t forget to add some leaves of Vietnamese balm, much tastier! 

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Dip sauce – mixture of shrimp paste, kumquat juice, slices of chili, small spoon of tofu-frying oil.

I do enjoy eating bún đậu in the cold days in Hanoi, right on the street, especially with the fresh herbs – Vietnamese balm (kinh giới), water mint (húng láng), it’s difficult to describe all mixed flavors in my mouth.

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Bún đậu can be served additionally with fried young rice ham or cooked pork meat.

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A side dish – fried ham mixed with young rice (chả cốm) 

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or cooked pork meat…

I realized bún đậu quite popular for morning street foods in Hanoi, esp. in the old quarter. Everywhere I go, I meet street vendors with a small pan of oil, a basket of rice noodles and slices of golden tofu on a small rack over the pan!

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A street vendor prepares for customer, a final touch – spoon of tofu-frying oil to the dip sauce. 

If eating right on the street, you will be served bún đậu in a medium-size tray, with everything on it! Just squeeze some drops of kumquat to your sauce, dip rice noodles, piece of tofu or ham into the sauce, don’t forget the herbs! The combination of various flavors: hot fatty tofu, cold but fresh noodles, strong and spicy and sour and sweet dip sauce together with nicely smell of herbs surely makes bún đậu very unique.

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Busy street in Tràng Tiền, during lunch time, young people sharing a tray of bún đậu. 

 

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