Saigon Food : Bun Mam

My husband has another name; it is the Bun Mam Man.

Bun Mam is a noodle soup made with a pungent fermented fish broth. Apparently foreigners don’t order it and don’t like it because of the smell of the fermented fish.

Let me be clear, my husband does not have this name because he smells like rotten fish. I am not sure how long he had been called the Bun Mam Man behind his back before we found out, but I expect it happened after the first dozen or so bowls of Bun Mam consumed.

This pungent soup has both pork and seafood, and a quails egg along with thickish noodles. It truly is delicious. The rich, dark stock is full of flavour and is as devilishly delicious as the items in the soup – shredded banana flower, morning glory and herbs all add extra flavour and texture in the broth. We loved the Chau Doc version, our first tasting of Bun Mam and a constant favourite.

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There is a large community of Vietnamese in Saigon who migrated from the Mekong Delta, the area that this dish originates from, and as a result there are many places in the town to eat authentic Bun Mam (District 3 is the best place to find the best Bun Mam, but a good version can be found near Ben Tranh market too – our food map will be available soon). It can be a little more expensive than some street meals at around 60-65,000 dong (just £2/$3) but it is always a filling generous portion of good quality ingredients and I have only ever paid the same as the locals. The higher priced dishes has always reflected the cornucopia of extra items in the soup.

We returned time and time again to eat Bun Mam at various places in Saigon – gaining the status of ‘regulars’ and being greeted as old friends as we walked in some some places. I believe one particular restaurant may have originally been responsible for Clives’ new name, although it was our B&B host that told us who had herself heard it on the streets of Saigon.

Knowing now that I travel with Bun Mam Man, it was an easy decision to head off to Chau Doc and the Mekong Delta to sample more south vietnamese cuisine and slurping even more Bun Mam.

To cook this at home is not easy as you need some specialist items.   So as this is my last post for Vietnam this year,  we will long for the day when we return to taste more Bun Mam.

In the meantime, I have plotted my preferred places to eat this and other great soups and street food on my  “Saigon Street Food Map”.  Email me if you would like a link.

Updated November 2016

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