All over Hanoi, a simple and popular snack is enjoyed by people of all occupations and ages: Bún đậu mắm tôm (Rice Vermicelli With Fried Tofu And Shrimp Paste).

Rice vermicelli with fried tofu and shrimp paste originated in the North. This snack is consumed year round, and is especially popular in the summer. Rice vermicelli and tofu are traditionally served with shrimp paste, but can also be eaten with lemon fish sauce. Vermicelli may also be served with boiled pork and young green rice terrine. Different cooks may add different ingredients, but the basic ingredients and pungent smell remain unchanged.

Traditionally, this dish features clumps of soft tangled rice vermicelli. The best tofu hails from the former Mo Village. When fried, it is crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Shrimp paste is mixed with some lemon or kumquat extract and sugar. Fresh chili is added to complement the sauce’s pungent smell. People who can’t stand shrimp paste can resort to fish sauce with chili and lemon extract. Essential fresh herbs include oregano, cilantro and basil.

Nowadays, this dish is often served with boiled pork so as to be more filling. The meal is presented on a rustic bamboo sieve. This simple container is lined with lustrous green banana leaves and filled with colorful, healthy and delicious ingredients. Visitors can enjoy rice vermicelli with fried tofu and shrimp paste in small lanes in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, such as Phat Loc Alley, Hang Khay Alley and Dong Xuan Market Alley.