Easy Bun Dau Mam Tom Recipe: A Guide to Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine

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Written By Hot Thai Restaurant

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We’re diving into the heart of Vietnamese cuisine with a dish that’s as flavorful as it is unique: Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm. This traditional meal has captured the hearts of many, not just in Vietnam, but around the globe, thanks to its simple yet profound flavors. It’s a delightful mix of soft rice vermicelli noodles, crispy fried tofu, and an assortment of fresh herbs, all brought together with the pungent punch of Mắm Tôm sauce.


Diving into the heart of Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm, let’s gather all the essential ingredients that make this dish an unforgettable experience.

For Bun (Rice Vermicelli)

  • 14 oz (400g) rice vermicelli noodles
  • Water (for boiling noodles)

For Dau (Fried Tofu)

  • 14 oz (400g) firm tofu, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups vegetable oil (for deep frying)
  • A pinch of salt

For Mam Tom (Shrimp Paste Sauce)

  • 3 tablespoons shrimp paste (Mắm Tôm)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-3 chili peppers, finely chopped (adjust based on spice preference)
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water

For the Accompaniments

  • Fresh herbs like perilla leaves, mint, and cilantro
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Bean sprouts
  • Sliced green mango (for extra tanginess)
  • Boiled pork belly, thinly sliced
  • Steamed pork bungs
  • Fried spring rolls (chả giò)

We’ve outlined everything you’ll need to recreate this beloved Vietnamese dish in your kitchen. Each component plays a critical role in delivering the experience Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm is famed for.

Required Tools and Equipment

To prepare Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm, not only do you need the right ingredients, but having the correct tools and equipment on hand is vital for bringing this traditional Vietnamese dish to life in your kitchen. Here’s what you’ll need to ensure your cooking process is as smooth as authentic as the dish itself.

Cooking Utensils

  • Large Pot: Essential for boiling rice vermicelli noodles to the perfect softness.
  • Skillet or Deep Fryer: To achieve that golden, crispy texture for the tofu, you’ll need a good quality skillet or a deep fryer.
  • Slotted Spoon and Tongs: These will help you safely remove the tofu from the oil and handle the cooked pork belly.
  • Mixing Bowls: For preparing and mixing the shrimp paste sauce.
  • Cutting Board and Sharp Knife: Needed for slicing the pork belly, herbs, and cucumbers.
  • Large Serving Platter: Bún Đậu is typically served family-style, so a large platter is perfect for arranging the noodles, tofu, pork, and herbs beautifully.
  • Small Dipping Bowls: Since Mắm Tôm sauce is strong and pungent, serving it in small bowls allows guests to adjust the amount to their liking.
  • Chopsticks or Forks: Depending on your preference, both are suitable for enjoying this dish.

Prep Work

Before we dive into the heart of cooking Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm, let’s tackle the prep work that’ll make the process smooth and enjoyable.

Preparing the Tofu

To start, we need to ensure our tofu is ready to take a delicious dive into the hot oil. First, we take a block of firm tofu and drain it well to remove as much moisture as possible. We do this by wrapping the tofu in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and setting a heavy object on top for about 15 minutes. Once it’s nicely pressed, we cut the tofu into bite-sized cubes. This size is perfect for maximizing surface area for that golden crisp we’re aiming for while keeping the inside soft and chewy.

Heating the oil in a skillet or deep fryer, we aim for about 350°F (177°C). This temperature is ideal for achieving a beautiful golden brown without burning the delicate tofu. Carefully, we add the tofu cubes to the oil, using tongs to avoid any splashes. It’s crucial to fry them in batches to not overcrowd the pan, which ensures each piece becomes deliciously crispy. After frying, we transfer the tofu to a plate lined with paper towels to drain any excess oil. This step is all about texture, preparing the tofu to be the star it’s meant to be in our Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm.

Preparing the Accompaniments

With our tofu set aside, we focus on the fresh components that bring life to this dish. We start with boiling a large pot of water to cook the rice vermicelli noodles. Following the package’s instructions, we aim for noodles that are soft yet springy, ensuring they don’t become mushy in the dish. After cooking, we drain them and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process, then set them aside.

Meanwhile, we prepare the vegetables and herbs. We slice cucumbers into thin spears, chop herbs like coriander and mint for freshness, and cut the pork belly into thin slices if it hasn’t been pre-sliced. These fresh elements are not only about adding color and texture but also about offering a refreshing contrast to the deep flavors of fried tofu and the potent shrimp paste sauce.

Finally, we prepare the dipping sauce, Mắm Tôm, by mixing shrimp paste with a squeeze of lime juice, a bit of sugar, and chili peppers to taste. This sauce is pungent, but it’s the soul of the dish, offering an umami-rich experience that balances the fresh and fried components.

Now that our prep work is complete, we’re all set to assemble our Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm with confidence and ease.

Cooking Instructions

Now that we’ve prepped our ingredients, let’s dive into the heart of cooking a delightful Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm. We’ll walk you through every step so you can create a dish that’s as authentic and delicious as it gets.

Frying the Tofu

To begin, heat about two inches of vegetable oil in a skillet or a deep fryer over medium heat to approximately 350°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, a cube of tofu should sizzle when it touches the oil. That’s your cue that the oil is hot enough.

Next, carefully add your tofu cubes to the hot oil. We’ve already cut and drained them, so they’re ready to go. Fry the tofu in batches to avoid overcrowding, which ensures each piece becomes golden and crispy. This should take about 3-5 minutes per side. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the fried tofu to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.

Boiling the Vermicelli

While the tofu is frying, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the rice vermicelli noodles and cook them according to the package instructions—usually, they only need about 3-5 minutes. You’re aiming for noodles that are soft yet still a bit firm to the bite. After draining them in a colander, rinse the noodles under cold water to stop the cooking process and keep them from sticking. Shake off any excess water, and they’re ready to be served.

Making the Shrimp Paste Sauce

The shrimp paste sauce, known as Mắm Tôm, is pivotal to this dish, lending it a distinctive, umami-rich flavor. In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of shrimp paste with about 1/4 cup of hot water to dilute it. Stir vigorously until the paste dissolves completely. To this, add 1 tablespoon of lime juice, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 chopped chili (if you enjoy a bit of heat). Adjust the sauce according to your taste preference; some might like it a bit sweeter, while others prefer it tangier. The goal is to achieve a balance of savory, sweet, and sour.

With these steps, you’ve got each component of Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm ready. All that’s left is assembly and digging in to experience the wonderful blend of textures and flavors.

Plating and Assembly

Now that each component is perfectly cooked and ready, let’s bring them together in a harmonious presentation that’s as appealing to the eye as it is to the palate.

Assembling the Bun

First, we’ll prepare the base of our dish. Take a large serving plate and carefully place a generous handful of rice vermicelli noodles in the center. It’s all about creating a fluffy bed of noodles that will support the vibrant array of toppings. Make sure the noodles are cool and have just the right amount of springiness.

Next, slice the fried tofu into bite-sized pieces, if you haven’t already, and arrange them around the noodles. The golden, crispy exterior of the tofu adds a delightful contrast in textures.

For a splash of color and freshness, scatter thinly sliced cucumbers and fresh herbs over the top. Mint, perilla, and cilantro are traditional choices, offering a burst of flavor with every bite.

Finally, drape slices of boiled pork belly across the platter. The meat should be tender, with a silky layer of fat that melts in your mouth.

Preparing the Platter

For the ultimate Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm experience, serving the dish with a side of shrimp paste sauce is essential. In a small bowl, stir the shrimp paste sauce until smooth, adding a squeeze of lime juice and a hint of chili to elevate its flavors.

Additionally, ensure you’ve got small dishes of fresh herbs, additional cucumber slices, and extra lime wedges ready for everyone to personalize their plate.

As everyone gathers around the table, guide them to spoon a little shrimp paste sauce over their servings and mix everything gently. This way, the rich, umami-packed sauce perfectly coats the noodles, tofu, and vegetables, creating a mouth-watering symphony of flavors and textures.

Diving into this beautifully prepared platter, your guests will experience the authentic taste and communal joy of Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm, making every bite a celebration of traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

Tips for the Perfect Bun Dau Mam Tom

Creating a delicious Bun Dau Mam Tom, a classic Vietnamese dish known for its harmony of flavors and textures, involves attention to detail and a few insider tips. Let’s dive into how we can make our Bun Dau Mam Tom stand out, ensuring every bite is a delightful experience.

Selecting the Right Ingredients

The secret to a great Bun Dau Mam Tom starts with the ingredients. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Tofu: Opt for firm tofu that can hold its shape when fried to achieve that golden, crispy exterior while maintaining a soft interior.
  • Rice Vermicelli Noodles: Choose high-quality, thin rice vermicelli noodles for the best texture.
  • Fresh Herbs: Prioritize freshness for herbs such as mint, cilantro, and perilla, as they add a vibrant burst of flavor.
  • Shrimp Paste (Mam Tom): This is the heart of the dish, so find a quality shrimp paste that offers a balance of salty, sweet, and umami flavors.

Achieving the Perfect Fry

Frying tofu is an art. Follow these steps for the ultimate crispy tofu:

  1. Press the tofu to remove excess moisture. This will help you achieve that desired crispy texture.
  2. Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces, not too thin or thick.
  3. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. A drop of water should sizzle when it hits the oil, indicating it’s hot enough.
  4. Fry the tofu pieces until golden on all sides, then drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Balancing the Shrimp Paste Sauce

The shrimp paste sauce (Mam Tom) can be strong for some. Here’s how we ensure it meshes well with the other ingredients:

  • Dilute the Shrimp Paste: Start with a small amount of water, adding gradually until you reach a desirable consistency and flavor.
  • Add Sugar and Lime: These help balance the sauce’s saltiness and intensity, creating a more complex and palatable flavor profile.
  • Test and Adjust: Taste as you go and adjust the seasoning to your preference. Remember, the sauce should complement the dish, not overpower it.
  • Start with a base of rice vermicelli noodles on a platter.
  • Arrange the fried tofu, fresh herbs, and any additional toppings like cucumber slices or pickled carrots around the noodles. Pour the shrimp paste sauce over the dish just before serving to maintain the crispiness of the tofu and freshness of the herbs.

Enjoy this traditional Vietnamese delight with friends and family!

Serving Suggestions

After meticulously preparing the crispy tofu, cooking the vermicelli noodles to perfection, and achieving the ideal balance in your shrimp paste sauce, it’s now time to dive into the art of serving Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm. Here, we’ll guide you through our recommended serving suggestions to ensure your culinary creation is as delightful to serve as it is to eat.

Presentation Is Key

When it comes to serving Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm, presentation plays a significant role. Start by selecting a large plate or a traditional bamboo tray, which will not only hold all the components comfortably but will also add an authentic touch to your meal. Arrange the fried tofu pieces around the perimeter of the plate, creating a frame for the other elements. Place a generous amount of vermicelli noodles in the center. Alongside the tofu, beautifully display an assortment of fresh herbs, cucumber slices, and other greens. The vibrant colors and fresh look will invite your guests to dive in.


In a separate small bowl, serve the shrimp paste sauce, allowing each diner to adjust the amount according to their preference. It’s essential to provide a side of lime wedges, chili slices, and sometimes, a bit of sugar to allow everyone to tweak the sauce to their liking. Offering these accompaniments not only caters to individual taste preferences but also adds an interactive element to the meal, making the dining experience even more enjoyable.

Side Dishes

To complement the main dish, consider preparing a few side dishes. Popular choices include steamed pork belly slices, crispy fried pork fat, and even grilled shrimp. These can be served on separate small plates around the main dish, enabling everyone to sample and enjoy a variety of flavors and textures that beautifully blend with the main ingredients of Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm.

Finishing Touches

Lastly, don’t forget to place a pot of steaming hot tea on the table. A traditional Vietnamese meal is often accompanied by tea, believed to aid digestion and enhance the overall dining experience. As everyone settles in, pour the tea for your guests, signalling that it’s time to start the meal. This act of hospitality not only warms the body but also the heart, creating a welcoming atmosphere that complements the delicious meal you’ve prepared.

Make-Ahead Instructions

Preparing a Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm feast can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re aiming to serve everything fresh and hot at the same time. Thankfully, there are aspects of this dish that can be prepared ahead of time, allowing you to enjoy the company of your guests instead of being tied down to the kitchen. Here’s how you can get ahead.

Tofu Preparation

The tofu can be fried ahead of time. Once you’ve achieved that golden, crispy exterior, let the tofu cool completely before storing it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This can be done up to two days in advance. When you’re ready to serve, simply reheat the tofu in the oven at 350°F for about 10-15 minutes or until it’s crispy and hot again.

Preparing the Vermicelli Noodles

Vermicelli noodles can also be prepared ahead of time. Boil them according to package instructions, then rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Toss them with a small amount of oil to keep them from sticking together. Store the noodles in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one day ahead. To serve, quickly blanch them in hot water for 30 seconds to warm them through.

Sauce and Herbs

The shrimp paste sauce, known as Mắm Tôm, can be mixed and adjusted to your liking up to a day in advance. Keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, it’s best to let it come to room temperature before serving, as the flavors are more pronounced when not chilled.

For the herbs, wash and dry them the day before. Wrap them in a damp paper towel and store them in a plastic bag in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator. This keeps the herbs fresh without wilting.

Pork Belly and Grilled Shrimp

If you’re including pork belly and grilled shrimp as part of your feast, these too can be prepared ahead. Cook the pork belly, let it cool, then wrap it tightly and store it in the refrigerator. For the best texture and flavor, slice it cold just before serving. Shrimp can be marinated a day ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Grill them just before serving to ensure they’re hot and succulent.


We’ve walked through the delightful journey of creating Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm, a dish that’s as fun to make as it is to eat. With our make-ahead tips, we’re confident you’ll find preparing this Vietnamese classic both manageable and enjoyable. Remember, the essence of this dish lies not just in its flavors but in the joy of sharing it with friends and family. So gather your loved ones, follow our guide, and dive into the rich, aromatic world of Vietnamese cuisine. Here’s to many memorable meals ahead!

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