Hanoi Sreet Food, Volume I: bún đậu

Hanoi is a street food lover’s dream come true. Plenty of tasty (rất ngon in Vietnamese) options for under a buck. I’m a hesitant street food consumer (I think I’ve seen too much strolling the streets of Hanoi for the past 1.5 years) but there’s one dish I adore: bún đậu.

Before we get to the food, let me set the stage. Actually, let’s let Anthony Bourdain do it. As Bourdain said in his Parts Unknown episode on Vietnam: “All of the things I need for happiness: Low plastic stool, check. Tiny little plastic table, check. Something delicious in a bowl, check.”

Bun Dau

If you’re an Anthony Bourdain fan like me, you may have seen his episode on Vietnam. In a Conde Nast Traveler article from last year, Bourdain said his first trip to Vietnam changed his life. I’d have to agree with him (although my first trip will be two years-long!). One of the biggest gamechangers: fresh tofu. I’ll never go back to packaged tofu from Trader Joe’s – go fresh or go home.

My favorite? Bún đậu with mắm tôm. Bún (rice noodles), fried tofu, herbs, mắm tôm (fermented shrimp paste), red chilies. Every time I ask for mắm tôm , I’m met with a look of shock, and a follow-up comment of “foreigners don’t like mắm tôm .” Don’t get me wrong, the stuff is stinky. But it tastes so good with the plain noodles and tofu – it balances the neutral flavors and makes bún đậu even more delcious.

The best part? The vibe. I love running across the street to my local bún đậu vendor. She carries her restaurant on her shoulders (pot, ingredients, plates, chop sticks, stools, etc.), sets up shop, and cooks for people on their lunch breaks. I love watching her prepare the food while I wait.

Better yet? Eating this delicious lunch will only cost you 15,000 VND (about $0.70), or 20,000 VND for takeaway.

Bun Dao 2My favorite bún đậu lady, just across the street from my apartment

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