The British journalist misses the noodles with shrimp paste: Nostalgia comes from the important ‘spice’ of Hanoi
daitranvan 3-09-2022, 11:08

British journalist Graham Holliday has been in Vietnam for 9 years and is a lover of Vietnamese cuisine.

In 2018, in the “list of 11 best vermicelli, noodles and pho dishes in Vietnam”, The Culture Trip named Bun dau mam shrimp – a rustic dish “eating once and remembering forever” because of its special taste. of shrimp paste – “you’ll either love it or hate it,” writes The Culture Trip.

Vermicelli with shrimp paste is also a dish that British journalist Graham Holliday misses when he is away from Vietnam. Journalist Holliday is the author of a book called “Eating Vietnam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table” (Eating in Vietnam: A story from a blue plastic table), published in 2015 and published by the famous chef. Anthony Bourdain wrote the preface.

After Anthony Bourdain passed away in 2018, journalist Graham Holliday and his team founded the Explore Parts Unknown website to post old videos and articles by the late chef in his memory.

The website also publishes a number of articles by journalist Holliday and his associates, and the following is a summary of the translated text from a special article expressing this journalist’s love for the simple Vietnamese noodle dish with shrimp paste . Nam, with the title “A Love Letter to Bun Dau Mam Shrimp” (A love letter to Bun Dau Mam shrimp).

“The food I miss when I leave Vietnam”

Nhung’s whole “kitchen” was carried on a bicycle. Two rubber tires “wheeze” under the cooking pans, plastic chairs, tofu, vermicelli, herbs and broth.

It was almost 11 o’clock, and it was also the time when Hanoians were about to go to lunch. Wearing a ba ba shirt, the shop owner Nhung stepped down and unloaded each item, arranging her sidewalk “kitchen”.

Ms. Nhung is one of thousands of street vendors from the countryside to the capital. Every morning, Nhung travels nearly 65 kilometers, taking an hour and a half on the bus from Hung Yen to Hanoi. And her schedule repeats like that 7 days a week.

Like many street vendors, sidewalk stalls and restaurant owners in Vietnam, Ms. Nhung specializes in selling only one “specialty” dish: Bun dau mam shrimp. It is the most simple dish among the rustic dishes of Vietnam. And it’s also a dish I miss very much now that I’m away from the country where I’ve been for nearly a decade.

The sizzling sound coming from Nhung’s frying pan over hot coals soon attracted a crowd on Hang Trong Street. They sat on the tiny plastic chair, ordering food and chatting as Nhung prepared their lunch.

The type of vermicelli used in vermicelli with shrimp paste is vermicelli, which is pressed and cut into white pieces of vermicelli. Tofu must be fresh beans. And shrimp paste must have a characteristic purple color.

There are two opinions about the smell of this dish, but the smell of shrimp paste is essential – it’s like magic that gives color to a gray plate of food. That being said, the vermicelli with shrimp paste must be a fusion of flavors – if one of these delicious “pillars” is lost, the whole thing will fall apart.

To soften the harshness of shrimp paste, squeeze a kumquat or two, add a little sugar and stir with chopsticks. Cut a few basil leaves, mint basil, and sliced ​​cucumber on the tray and start enjoying the white noodles and pieces of yellow beans that are crispy on the outside – soft on the inside. Don’t forget to order fried rice as well.

The British journalist misses the noodles with shrimp paste: Nostalgia comes from the important ‘spice’ of Hanoi


The important “spice” of Hanoi

A serving of vermicelli with shrimp paste is quite cheap, only about 1 USD (ND: calculated by the time the author enjoys this dish in Vietnam). Now that I’m away from Vietnam, I wouldn’t mind if I had to spend more money to eat one more serving of Mrs. Nhung’s vermicelli.

In fact, my longing and nostalgia is not only because of Mrs. Nhung’s noodle soup with bean paste and shrimp paste. Food only accounts for half of my nostalgia.

Sitting at Mrs. Nhung’s noodle shop, you are surrounded by many people slurping, chatting and enjoying food. Behind them were two children kicking a ball into a damp alley, and above them the sound of a dog barking. Further away, a teenager is clutching a microphone attached to a karaoke speaker, and a man in plastic flip-flops is “dissecting” the electrical box.

The air around him wafted with the smell of smoke, roast pork, and of popcorn. An old man in a vest lit a Vinataba and disappeared down a bushy path. A motorbike carrying pigs passed by. Ms. Nhung will put your plate of vermicelli noodles with shrimp paste on the plastic chair and tell you: “Eat”.

It is this unscripted footage that adds spice to Hanoi’s street food. It’s not something you can bottled or find anywhere outside the capital, but that spice is really important and I miss it as much as vermicelli with shrimp paste.

Maybe I miss bun dau mam shrimp more than some other Vietnamese dishes because this dish is “very street”. Vendors carry their “kitchen” on the street, and cook right on the street, and we also have to go down the street to eat vermicelli with shrimp paste. There are even “shops” with vermicelli noodles and shrimp paste that don’t even have tables, only 12cm high chairs.

Today, vermicelli with shrimp paste is available almost everywhere in Vietnam. But alas, I am no longer in Vietnam. When I try to make vermicelli with shrimp paste for my family in a place 8 time zones away from Vietnam, what I miss so much is Nhung’s magical mobile “kitchen” and the cinema on the street. Hanoi street.

Photo: Vivanvu/Shutterstock

About the author

According to NPR, British journalist Graham Holliday made a big life-changing decision when he moved to Asia. His first stop was Korea, and then Vietnam – his “home” for 9 years.

As soon as he arrived in Vietnam, journalist Holliday showed his passion for Vietnamese culture and especially cuisine. He has documented his journey on the blog Noodle Pie and the book Eating Vietnam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table written by the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

Refer: Explore Parts Unknown, NPR, The Culture Trip