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  • Writer's pictureKevin Dam

Exploring the Bold Flavors of Bún Mắm: A Guide to Vietnamese Fermented Fish Soup Noodle

Dish name: Bún Mắm (Vietnamese Fermented Fish Soup Noodle)

  • Cuisine: Vietnamese

  • Preparation time: 1 hour 30 minutes

  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • Expiration: Consume immediately or store for up to 2 days when refrigerated

  • Ingredients:

  • 300g pork belly, sliced

  • 200g shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 200g catfish fillet, cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 200g rice vermicelli noodles

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 cup mắm cá linh (fermented fish paste)

  • 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp

  • 1 cup of pineapple, chopped

  • 2 tomatoes, quartered

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 shallot, sliced

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce

  • Fresh chili peppers, to taste

  • 1 eggplant, sliced

  • Bean sprouts, Thai basil, and lime wedges for garnish


  1. Boil pork belly in water for about 20 minutes. Remove the pork and set aside, reserve the broth.

  2. In a separate pot, mix the fermented fish paste with 4 cups of water. Strain to keep the liquid and discard solids.

  3. Combine the pork broth and fermented fish liquid, add tamarind pulp, and bring to a boil.

  4. Add shrimp, fish, pineapple, tomatoes, garlic, shallot, and sugar to the boiling mixture. Simmer for about 30 minutes.

  5. Season the soup with fish sauce and add chili peppers to your desired heat level.

  6. In a separate pot, cook the vermicelli noodles according to the package instructions, then drain.

  7. To serve, place noodles in a bowl, pour the hot soup over it, and add the cooked pork belly and eggplant.

  8. Garnish with bean sprouts, Thai basil, and lime wedges.

To make the broth for Bún Mắm more flavorful, consider the following techniques and tips:

  1. Quality of Fermented Fish Paste: The essence of Bún Mắm is the fermented fish paste. Select high-quality mắm cá linh or any other fermented fish paste for the best flavor profile. A well-fermented fish paste yields a deep umami flavor.

  2. Proper Washing: Before using the fermented fish paste, rinse it lightly to get rid of any excessive saltiness but be careful not to wash away the flavors.

  3. Simmer, Don't Boil: Simmering the broth on low heat for a longer period helps to extract maximum flavors from the ingredients without making the fish taste rubbery.

  4. Saute Aromatics: For a more aromatic broth, you can sauté the garlic, shallots, and tomato in a small amount of oil before adding them to the broth. This process helps in releasing their flavors.

  5. Balance with Tamarind: Tamarind pulp adds a necessary tanginess that balances the strong flavors of the fermented fish. It also adds a subtle sweetness which rounds out the flavor.

  6. Fresh Ingredients: Use ripe tomatoes and fresh pineapple for natural sweetness. If possible, choose fresh and live seafood as it will impart a cleaner taste to the broth.

  7. Bone Broth: Use pork or chicken bones and simmer them for several hours before preparing the Bún Mắm to create a rich and hearty bone broth as the base.

Remember, the key to a good Bún Mắm broth is balancing the salty, sweet, sour, and umami flavors harmoniously. Fine-tune the quantities as per your taste

Here's an example image of what Bún Mắm looks like:

Enjoy the rich and umami-filled flavors of Bún Mắm with your friends and family!

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