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Feasting on bun mam in Da Nang City

Update: January, 09/2012 - 22:20


The simple life: Tran Ke Xuong Street in Hai Chau District, which looks like a quiet Hanoian alley, is home to dozens of bun mam stalls. — VNS Photos Do Truong
Bun mam with a difference: Vermicelli, fresh lettuce, boiled green jackfruit pieces, roast pig, peanuts and salted fish.
Inexpensive and tasty: Bun mam is popular with both students and office workers, who flock to Tran Ke Xuong Street every afternoon.

Bun mam Co Tam

Address: 23/8 Tran Ke Xuong St, Hai Chau Dict, Da Nang City

Tel: 0935105911

Hours: 6am – 9pm

Price: VND15.000 (US$0.7) a bowl

Comment: An acquired-taste southern delicacy in a tranquil atmosphere.

Located in a small alley in Tran Ke Xuong Street in Da Nang's Hai Chau District is a row of stalls selling bun mam (vermicelli with salted fish sauce) – a true southern delicacy. Do Truong reports.I enjoyed very much the bun mam (vermicelli with salted fish sauce) in the southernmost Ca Mau Province in the Mekong River Delta region due to its strong flavours. Recently, I discovered something more than just the delicious taste when my friend and I tried bun mam in the central Da Nang City.

Located in a small alley in Tran Ke Xuong Street in Da Nang's Hai Chau District is a range of bun mam stalls. The first impression visitors may feel is that it looks like a quiet alley in Ha Noi, and it seems to be a familiar address for many people from students to office workers every afternoon.

We stopped at Co Tam, the first stall of the range. My companion who is a local resident said this stall had opened here for a long time and was one of the most renowned stalls in the alley. We ordered two bowls of bun mam and two glasses of soymilk, and in only a few minutes, a cheery waitress brought them to us.

Different from bun mam in the Mekong River Delta region, a bun mam bowl here includes vermicelli, fresh lettuce, basil leaves, boiled green jackfruit pieces, roast pork, peanuts and salted fish sauce. All of them should be mixed carefully before eating. The dish is accompanied by fresh vegetables, red and sour chili sauce, garlic and lemon. Especially, basil leaves are imported from Tra Que, a renowned vegetable village in Hoi An City in the neighbouring Quang Nam Province.

My friend said she was a regular client here and what made bun mam in Da Nang special to her was that it is eaten with no soup: she could feel the crispness of roast pork and the buttery taste of peanuts most clearly.

Fourty-two-year-old Le Thi Hong Tam, the stall's owner, said she inherited the small trade from her mother. Bun mam had now become a traditional dish that helped identify the cuisine character of Da Nang besides banh trang cuon thit heo (pork rice paper roll) and bun cha ca (fish cake soup), she said.

Tam said in order to have a delicious bun mam bowl, salted fish was the decisive factor.

Fish pickled in salt – a renowned spice in Vietnamese traditional cuisine – is often made from such seafood as shrimp, fish or tiny shrimp. For bun mam, the salted fish is made from whitebait or mackerel, she said.

The fish are soaked in salt water within five months until they dissolve. Although it sounded so easy, she said, the formula to process salted fish had been a private secret passed down in each family business. "If there is not a good formula, the salted fish will be addled," she said.

"If people have once enjoyed bun mam here, they mustn't forget the attractive taste of salted fish," said 24-year-old office staff Nguyen Thi Thu Huong, who eats bun mam with her colleagues here mostly every week and even has it as a main course for dinner sometimes.

Huong added that it would be great to drink a cup of hot ginger tea after eating bun mam. "With some ginger tea, you can feel the flavour of salted fish to the fullest," she said.

I agreed with Huong, but there was something more I loved in this alley. Sitting down by a small table here, breathing cold winter air and seeing old balconies around, I recalled the small streets and sidewalk stalls in the ancient quarter of Ha Noi where I visited recently.

When we came back home, I felt I had found an ideal place to come whenever I miss Ha Noi or want to enjoy some tasty traditional dishes of the central beach city. — VNS

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