Bun Mam (Gumbo of Vietnam)

Bun Mam (aka Vietnamese Gumbo) is a Vietnamese dish that originated in the region of Soc Trang, Mekong Delta. Bun Mam is fishy, aromatic, sweet, dark, acidic, bright, crisp, and smooth on the palate. There are two important parts for a perfect Bun Mam dish (kindly get full ingredients in the end of the post)

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Bun mam, in simple terms, is a smorgasbord in a noodle soup. The essential flavor of the dish comes from the famous fermented fish paste which is mixed into the broth to form a flavor that is unique to Vietnam. By adding your own chilli and lime, you have a perfectly balanced flavor combination in a single dish.

The firm noodles of bun mam form a bed for the range of ingredients to fill you. As the bowl lands on your table, your first impression is of the large shrimp with its prominent orange stripes. Resting alongside, you will begin to notice the comfortably sized pieces of pork, squid, fish, eggplant and a range of green herbs and vegetables.

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With the full steaming bowl in front of you, one might think it’s time to dig in and start eating, but there are a few things you need to do before enjoying this noodle dish. To support the dish, you have an option of chilli and lime to add to the soup. Also, you will be given a plate of salad items, usually lightly boiled, that might include green leaves, white sprouts, and other colorful inclusions.

Knowing how to put it together is sometimes scary. This is where foreigners oftentimes get a little confused. On your table you have a big bowl of noodle soup (bun mam), a plate of hot salad, a small bowl of chilli and lime, sauces, and other condiments. t looks like there is so much to do but it easily comes together to suit your tastes.

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First, add lime and chilli to taste. Then remove the salad from the plate and add it to the soup. Gently mix the salad into the soup and roll the noodles from the bottom to allow the vegetables, salad, and noodles to mix, and you are ready to eat. But wait! What’s most important is the 30 seconds to smell the aroma of the soup before you begin eating. That smelly paste has now transformed into a culinary delight that will blow your taste buds away.

With so much flavor in one bowl, this is not a dish to enjoy with beer or soda. To compliment this small piece of cuisine perfection, hot or cold tea is a must. With the spicy flavors of peppers, lime, fish sauce, and chilli exploding in your mouth, and the heat of the soup itself, you will be well supported with some cold tea or water. Most restaurants will have a jug of iced tea on the table that you can drink for free.

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The only thing you have left is to enjoy the moment you experience the taste. If you are a visitor to Vietnam, make sure you get some photos as the bowl arrives, because the colors look amazing, and your family back home will love the pictures.

Whilst bun mam is one of the most popular, and common, dishes found around the southern region of Vietnam, mam dishes of many varieties fill restaurant menus and home tables across the country. Whether added to a soup as a key flavor of a dish or as an accompanying sauce, mam is seen in every corner of the country and used in every house as a standard flavor for food that is enjoyed by everyone.

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Bun mam can be enjoyed at any time of the day, but there are other dishes that also stand tall on the list of unique and special local foods in Vietnam. Mam tom (shrimp paste) is another variety of mam that is used for amazing dishes like bun dau mam tom. This is a meal served on a bamboo tray covered with banana leaves, loaded up with salad, meats, fried tofu, and cold noodles. All you do is squeeze kumquat into your small bowl of the purple shrimp paste that is given to you with the dish and mix in chilli and sugar to taste. Then enjoy the interaction with your friends as you all pick from the plate and eat this delightful food.

Full ingredient of Bun Mam:

Core ingredient: Rice vermicelli noodles, squid, shrimp, catfish, eggplant (which soaks up the broth), fish cakes, roasted pork belly, and fermented fish-flavored mam broth.
Suppliment ingredient (but indispensable): Fresh herbs such as rau dang (bitter knotgrass), gia (bean sprouts), he (chives), bap chuoi (banana blossom), keo neo (yellow velvetleaf), rau nhut (water mimosa), and rau muong (water spinach).

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