Bun dau mam tom, tofu, organs and shrimp paste

Bun Dau Mam Tom: The Dish that Broke My Spirit

In Food, Vietnam by Nick4 Comments

Bún đậu mắm tôm ruined what was an unbelievable streak of great meals these past couple weeks.

Like most catastrophes, it could have been avoided if I paid just a bit more attention.

You see, bun dau mam tom is a combination of rice noodles, fried tofu, fermented shrimp paste and various organ meat.

“But wait a minute! Heart and intestine are delicious, and fermented fish sauce is awesome. What gives?” And at that, you’d be absolutely correct. But bun dau mam tom is not your average beast.

Let’s break it down. Organs are indeed tasty, but the variety that comes with a big, heaping plate of BDMT is lifeless, boiled and bland. Strike one.

Second, we have shrimp paste—the “mam tom” portion. Yes, nuoc mam is almost as drinkable as an ice cold water on a summer day, but mam tom takes all the fun out of fish sauce.

Shrimp paste is like fish sauce’s moody younger sister. Shrimp paste writes depressing poems while wearing fingerless gloves, and likes to hang out in the graveyard on the weekend smoking cigarettes and discussing nihilism with her friends.

Shrimp paste makes me gag. I’ve tried it a couple times but the flavor is just too pungent. This is coming from someone who enjoys fermented fish and Frankenstein ducklings.

Anyway, I guess you’re supposed to combine the paste with lime juice and use it as a dipping sauce for your lifeless chunks of organs. I guess. Strike two.

Bun dau mam tom’s greatest sin is that 50% of it is fried tofu. I can overlook the boiled kidneys, possibly ignore the shrimp paste…but this much tofu on one plate is asking for trouble.

Tofu is terrible. People who say they like tofu are full of shit. Either they have never eaten meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy products, or ANY of the other food tofu is supposed to replace or mimic…OR they are a fucking liar. Reader—are you a liar, or do you just hate flavor?

That’s why it’s so easy to hate tofu/soy products. No matter what dish it shows up to uninvited, there’s always a better substitute.

Soy burgers? Meet meat.

Tofu stir fry? Let me introduce you to shrimp.

Bun dau mam tom? Just about anything else.

Anyway, I ordered bun dau mam tom by accident at a Hanoian restaurant near my house. Northern Vietnamese food is usually sweeter and more fried-er than Southern food, but it’s a nice change of pace.

Once I recover from my run-in with the Devil I’ll try to salvage your opinion of Hanoian cuisine before it’s too late.

But to amplify my disappointment, just imagine me as an innocent, joyous, small child. I’m sitting at a table, whistling and swinging my feet back and forth. Maybe I’m playing with a yo-yo or paddleball. My parents just took me to the circus. Maybe I have a balloon or two.

I’m waiting for the perfect dinner to end the perfect day, and this steaming pile of shit lands in front of me.

I was so disappointed that I forgot to take a picture before I started eating. I will also never willingly order BDMT again, so don’t ask for a glamour shot. To put it in perspective, I just finished eating two pork chops, four fried eggs, a chicken quarter and rice. And I feel fine.

BDMT is easily the worst meal I’ve ever had. If you’re a masochist then please feel free to prove me wrong.

But the combination of tofu, bland meat and shrimp paste is scientifically proven to be nasty.

Do you like think you like tofu? Please argue with me in the comments below!


  1. Guy

    So, after almost one year, you finally had a bad meal! It must have been a “steaming pile of shit” for you not to like it, LOL. The fish sticks look good!

  2. Beth q

    Are you calling your mother a liar? I love tofu! Not plain tofu of course. It takes in the flavor of the sauce. Can’t believe you had a bad meal!
    You were waiting for my response to your tofu challenge weren’t you?

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