Many people often asked me how do I go about finding where to go for local favorite eats? For one thing, I’ve often ignored advertisements and fancy places. Most often great eateries are either found by reputation, word of mouth and by chance.
Bun dau originated from Northern Vietnam. Unlike the more famous bun cha, pho ga and cha ca, bun dau is a lesser known dish but still considered as one of Hanoians’ other local favorite.
Bun Dau A Vung, like many other local favorite eateries, was founded by chance. Bun dau is a dish comprised of thin cold rice noodles, deep fried tofu, assorted herbs, cha com and mam tom (fermented shrimp sauce).
The restaurant is located on Luong Huu Khanh, a side street between Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Bui Thi Xuan Street. It is lean, airy and has plenty of tables. What I like about Bun Dau A Vung is they have an open kitchen where you can see the tofu maker making fresh tofu throughout the day.
Thin rice noodles are packed together and cut into bite size chunks about the same size as the tofu. Tofu here is quite special because it is handmade throughout the day in their open kitchen and cut into nice chunks and then deep fried. Golden and slightly crunchy on the outside yet soft on the inside.
Cha com, which is a sticky rice mixed with pureed meat, is mashed into a pattie shape and deep fried, sliced like a thick sausage and added to the dish. It tastes much better than it sounds.
To be honest, rice noodles and tofu doesn’t have much taste by itself. To make this a complete dish, you need a dipping sauce. This is where the mam tom comes in, and it is the most notable thing about bun dau.
The flavor is hard to describe, but the fact that mam tom literally means fermented shrimp sauce should give you some kind of indication. It’s made from sun-dried fermented ground shrimps mixed with salt. I have to say it does take some time to get used to and you can smell it from down the street. However, adding on an assorted herbs and chili make this an interesting dish.
Tristan Ngo is the Chef Patron and Owner of Skewers Restaurant and The Elbow Room.