Bún Mắm Recipe

Lastest Updated April 22, 2024
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Vietnamese fermented fish noodle soup, or “Bún mắm”, is a unique dish that the people in Vietnam adore. Infused with the umaminess and intense aroma of fermented fish, this delicacy has a signature flavor that you just can’t get enough of once you’re hooked.

Truth be told, Bun mam is an acquired taste. Some people absolutely love it, while others might find it too overwhelming. Nevertheless, I strongly encourage you to give this dish a try and see for yourself.

No more beating around the bush! Let’s jump right into today’s recipe and learn how to make the most authentic Vietnamese fermented fish noodle soup.

Vietnamese Fermented Fish Noodle Soup

Bun Mam 101 – A Gem In Vietnamese Cuisine

“Bún mắm” is a delicacy that originated in the Southwestern regions (or Mekong River Delta) of Vietnam. It consists of fermented fish broth, usually made from moustached danio or snakeskin gourami, other seafood, and crispy pork roast.

The locals simmer the fermented fish until it fully dissolves, then strain it to make the broth. This cooking process results in a highly aromatic stock packed with pungent seafood flavor. To complete the dish, people in Vietnam enjoy it with a wide array of herbs and vegetables.

Initially, Bun mam was an invention of Cambodian cuisine, which the Vietnamese adapted. Regardless, it has long been a favorite dish of countless Vietnamese people, especially during and after the 1970s, when this fragrant noodle soup came to Saigon.

Tools

If you’re worried that this dish might require some sort of fancy tool, rest assured. Here are the simple tools that you need to make today’s recipe.

Sort Of Fancy Tool
  • Meat pounder: You’ll use this tool to smash the lemongrass stalks and make them easier to mince.
  • Pan: For stir-frying the pork roast.
  • Wooden spoon, ladle, slotted spoon: Handy kitchenware for handling and stirring the broth.
  • Sieve: For filtering the dissolved fermented fish.
  • Tongs: This tool helps you transfer hot ingredients.
  • Knife: You should use 2 knives, one for raw and one for cooked ingredients.
  • Cutting boards: Likewise, use 2 cutting boards to ensure food safety.

Ingredients

You’ll need to make a trip to the nearest Asian grocery store in order to gather the ingredients for this recipe.

  • Fermented fish: Look for cá linh (moustached danio) and cá sặc (snakeskin gourami) for the most authentic flavor.
  • Snakehead fish: People in Vietnam prefer wild-caught fish rather than farm-raised ones as they have a better texture and flavor.
  • Pork belly: You can also use pork knuckle, pork shoulder, or your preferred cut of pork.
  • Chinese-style roasted pork belly, also called crackling pork: You should have no trouble finding it at a Chinese BBQ store.
  • Featherback fish paste: For making the stuffed okra and peppers.
  • Squid and shrimp: Seafood is a must-have part of this dish.
  • Pineapple: The refreshing sweetness from pineapple balances the savoriness of the broth and brings everything together.
  • Chives: Their flavor will reduce the pungency of the fermented fish.
  • Vegetables: White radish, sponge gourd, eggplant, okra, peppers, etc.
  • Fresh herbs: Your dish won’t be complete without fresh herbs like yellow velvetleaf, water lily, common knotgrass, etc.
  • Thick vermicelli noodles: The traditional noodle type of choice for Bun mam.
  • Spices and condiments: Asian people love having lots of spices and condiments in their recipes. You’ll need rock sugar, brown sugar, soup powder, salt, pepper, and fish sauce.
  • Tamarind: For making the dipping sauce, you can also opt for chili fish sauce.
  • Cooking oil: For cooking and blanching the noodles.

Directions

Vietnamese fermented fish noodle soup is not hard to make at all. Follow these steps closely, and you’ll have a delicious meal in no time!

Step 1: Wash The Ingredients

Clean the shrimp’s heads and devein them. You can skip this step if you don’t want to add the shrimp’s boiling water to your broth.

Clean The Shrimps

Chop the snakehead fish into smaller pieces. Wash the pork belly, bones, squid, and vegetables thoroughly.

Wash The Ingredients

Step 2: Prepare The Ingredients

Cut the pork roast into bite-sized pieces (about 0.8-inch or 2-cm thick) and place them on a plate.

Use a meat pounder to crush the lemongrass, then mince them. Remember to keep the upper parts of the stalks for later use.

Mince the shallots, garlic, and half an onion. Cut the chives, pineapple, sponge gourd, and white radish into pieces.

Use the tip of a spoon or a teaspoon to remove the seeds/cores of the cow horn peppers and okra.

Shallots Garlic And Half An Onion

Slice the eggplant in half and cut it into bite-sized slices. Soak them in salted water to prevent them from browning.

Cut the pork belly into bite-sized pieces, about 0.4 to 0.8-inch (1 to 2-cm) thick.

Make thin, cross-hatch pattern slits on the sides of the squid, then slice it to create a more attractive shape when cooked.

Cut The Pork Belly

Step 3: Cook The Fermented Fish Broth

Pour 1 liter of water and 2 types of fermented fish into a small pot. Add 2 shallots and 3 lemongrass stalks. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes over low heat until the fish falls apart.

Once the fish has completely disintegrated, use a sieve/strainer to filter out the bones.

Cook The Fermented Fish Broth

Step 4: Make The Broth

Add 2 teaspoons of salt into a pot of boiling water and blanch the pork bones for 2 to 3 minutes. Then,transfer the bones to a cold water bath and wash thoroughly to remove debris and odor. This step will help you achieve a clear and aromatic broth.

Blanch The Pork Bones

Next, pour 1 liter of water into a pot together with a few shallots and 3 stalks of lemongrass. Season with 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of soup powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Add the snakehead fish to the pot and cook for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat. After that, remove the fish from the pot and set aside.

Add the shrimp and squid to the same pot. Cook the seafood for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, transfer them to a cold water bath to retain their crispness.

Add The Shrimp And Squid

Add 2.5 liters of water, pork bones, half an onion, sugar canes, sponge gourd, white radish, pineapple, and the seafood stock into a pot and stew for 1 hour and 30 minutes over medium heat.

After 30 minutes, pour in the fermented fish broth and continue stewing over low heat. Remember to skim the broth frequently to make it clearer.

Continue Stewing Over Low Heat

Step 5: Stir Fry The Pork Belly

Heat some cooking oil in a pan and fry the minced lemongrass, shallots, and minced garlic until fragrant. Add the pork belly and stir fry for 10 minutes to make the meat firmer and more aromatic.

Stir Fry The Pork Belly

Step 6: Make The Stuffed Okra And Peppers

Season the fish paste with 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cooking oil, and 1 teaspoon of soup powder. Mix well. Next, add the minced onion and mix until well combined.

Use a teaspoon or a small spoon to stuff the fish paste mixture into the okra and peppers.

Mixture Into The Okra And Peppers

Pour some olive oil into a heated pan and fry the okra and peppers until fully cooked on all sides. Transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

Fry The Okra And Peppers

Step 7: Finishing The Dish

After stewing the broth for 1 hour, remove the vegetables but keep the pork bones. Add the stir-fried pork belly and continue cooking over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add The Stir Fried Pork Belly

Meanwhile, mix 50 milliliters of hot water, 75 milliliters of fish sauce, and 4 teaspoons of sugar with tamarind in a small bowl. Stir until combined, then filter out the tamarind’s seeds.

Sugar With Tamarind In A Small Bowl

Season the stock pot with 0.15 pound (70 grams) of rock sugar, 2 teaspoons soup powder, and 2 teaspoons brown sugar, or adjust to taste. Note that the fermented fish already has a high salt content. Add the eggplant to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes over low heat.

Next, blanch the noodles in boiling water with cooking oil to prevent them from sticking. Peel the shrimp, keeping the heads.

Peel The Shrimp Keeping The Heads

Step 8: Present The Dish

Arrange the roast pork, fish, squid, shrimp, okra, and peppers over the noodles. Fill the noodle bowl with the broth. Remember to include some eggplant slices and pork belly. Sprinkle some chives and ground peppers on top. Serve with herbs.

Present The Dish

Handy Notes And Tips You Should Know

I know that there are quite many steps to follow, but don’t worry. Here are some useful tips to help make the cooking process easier.

  • The fermented fish has a strong and unique flavor that many people love. However, if you find the taste too strong for your liking, try making this dish without them, which will result in a different, but still very enjoyable noodle soup.
  • Add the accompanying herbs to the broth while it’s still hot and just as you’re about to eat them.
  • Some people like their peppers hot and spicy. If you’re one of those people, consider keeping the pepper seeds.
  • If you can’t find snakehead fish, you can substitute it with other white, freshwater fish.
  • Serve your noodle soup with chili sauce or Shacha sauce for more flavors.

Fall In Love With Vietnamese Fermented Fish Noodle Soup Today!

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Bun mam is not exactly a dish for the faint-hearted. However, if you’re a fan of pungent, flavorful dishes with unforgettable fragrant, I’m sure today’s recipe won’t let you down!

Have you tried Bun mam before? Do you adore it or find it a bit too much? I’d love to know what you think about this Vietnamese delicacy in the comment section. If you enjoy today’s recipe, please press the like button and share it with other home cooks!

Vietnamese Fermented Fish Noodle Soup Recipe

Vietnamese Fermented Fish Noodle Soup Recipe (Bún Mắm)

Vietnamese fermented fish noodle soup is a flavorful dish with a hard-to-forget aroma. Bring some authentic Asian flavors to your dining table with today’s recipe.
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 844kcal

Ingredients

Main Ingredients

  • 1.8 pounds (800 grams) snakehead fish
  • 1.1 pounds (500 grams) pork bones
  • 0.4 pound (200 grams) pork belly
  • 0.4 pound (200 grams) squid
  • 0.4 pound (200 grams) fresh shrimp
  • 0.4 pound (200 grams) fermented moustached danio (mắm cá linh)
  • 0.4 pound (200 grams) fermented snakeskin gourami (mắm cá sặc)
  • 0.4 pound (200 grams) Chinese-style roast pork belly
  • 0.2 pound (100 grams) featherback fish paste
  • 0.2 pound (100 grams) shallot
  • 0.1 pound (50 grams garlic
  • 4 cow horn peppers
  • 4 okra
  • Ginger
  • Chives
  • 0.25 pineapple
  • 1 onion
  • 1 white radish
  • 1 small sponge gourd
  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 sugar canes
  • 6 lemongrass stalks

Condiments and spices

  • 0.15 pound (70 grams) rock sugar
  • 50 milliliters fish sauce
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 4 teaspoons soup powder
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • Cooking oil
  • Tamarind

For serving

  • Yellow velvetleaf
  • Water lily
  • Common knotgrass
  • Banana blossom, grated, optional
  • Water spinach, grated, optional
  • Mung bean sprouts, optional
  • Perilla (shiso or beefsteak plant) leaves, optional
  • Vietnamese balm, optional
  • Thai basil, optional
  • Wild mint, optional
  • 1.1 pounds (500 grams) thick vermicelli noodles

For The Dipping Sauce

  • 0.1 pound (50 grams) tamarind
  • 75 milliliters high-quality fish sauce
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 50 milliliters hot water

Instructions 

  • Clean the shrimp’s heads and devein them. Chop the snakehead fish into smaller pieces.
    Clean The Shrimps
  • Wash the pork belly, bones, squid, and vegetables carefully.
    Wash The Ingredients
  • Cut the pork roast into bite-sized pieces and arrange them on a plate.
  • Crush the lemongrass stalks using a meat pounder, then mince them. Save the upper part of the stalks.
  • Mince the shallots, garlic, and half an onion.
  • Cut the chives, pineapple, sponge gourd, and white radish into pieces.
  • Core and remove the seeds of the peppers and okra.
    Shallots Garlic And Half An Onion
  • Slice the eggplant in half and cut it into bite-sized pieces. Then, soak them in salted water.
  • Cut the pork belly into bite-sized pieces.
  • Make thin, cross-hatch pattern slits on the sides of the squid, then slice them.
    Cut The Pork Belly
  • Pour water and the fermented fish into a small pot. Add shallots and half the amount of lemongrass stalks.
  • Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the fish falls apart.
  • Filter out the bones once the fish has disintegrated.
    Cook The Fermented Fish Broth
  • Blanch the pork bones for 2 to 3 minutes in boiled salted water.
  • Then, transfer the bones to a cold water bath and wash thoroughly to get rid of the debris and odor
    Blanch The Pork Bones
  • Next, pour water into a pot together with the snakehead fish, a few shallots, and the remaining lemongrass stalks.
  • Season with brown sugar, soup powder, and salt. Cook the broth for 10 to 15 minutes over medium heat, then remove the fish and set aside.
  • Add the shrimp and squid to the same pot, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer them to a cold water bath.
    Add The Shrimp And Squid
  • Add water, pork bones, half the onion, sugar canes, sponge gourd, white radish, pineapple, and the seafood stock into a pot. Stew for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, pour in the fermented fish broth and continue stewing, skimming frequently.
    Continue Stewing Over Low Heat
  • Heat some cooking oil in a pan and fry the minced lemongrass, shallots, and minced garlic until fragrant.
  • Add the pork belly and stir fry for 10 minutes.
    Stir Fry The Pork Belly
  • Season the fish paste with pepper, brown sugar, cooking oil, and soup powder. Mix well.
  • Stir in the minced onion and mix until combined.
  • Stuff the fish paste mixture into the okra and peppers.
    Mixture Into The Okra And Peppers
  • Pour some olive oil into a heated pan and fry the okra and peppers until fully cooked on all sides. Transfer them to a paper towel lined plate to drain off the excess oil.
    Fry The Okra And Peppers
  • After stewing the broth for 1 hour, remove the vegetables but keep the pork bones.
  • Add the stir-fried pork belly and continue cooking over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
    Add The Stir Fried Pork Belly
  • Meanwhile, mix hot water, fish sauce, and sugar with tamarind in a bowl. Stir until well-combined, then remove the tamarind’s seeds.
    Sugar With Tamarind In A Small Bowl
  • Season the stock pot with rock sugar, soup powder, and brown sugar, and adjust to taste.
  • Add the eggplant to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes over low heat.
  • Blanch the noodles in boiling water with cooking oil.
  • Peel the shrimp, keeping the heads.
    Peel The Shrimp Keeping The Heads
  • Arrange the roast pork, fish, squid, shrimp, okra, peppers, eggplant slices, and pork belly over the noodles. Pour in the broth.
  • Sprinkle chives and ground peppers on top. Serve with herbs.
    Present The Dish

Video

Notes

  • Fermented fish already has a high salt content, so don’t add too many extra spices.
  • You can try making this dish without fermented fish. The dish will taste different, but the flavor is still delicious.
  • Add the accompanying herbs to the broth while it’s still hot.
  • Keep the pepper seeds if you want more spiciness.
  • If you can’t find snakehead fish, you can substitute it with other white, freshwater fish.
  • The above cooking time is suitable for making 5 servings.
  • Serve your noodle soup with chili sauce or Shacha sauce for more flavors.

Nutrition

Calories: 844kcal
Richie

Richie

Content Writer

Expertise

Home Cooking, Meal Planning, Food Styling, Food Photography, Cooking-video Maker, Beverage Evaluation Expert

Education

Saigon Culinary Arts Centre, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Program: Diploma in Culinary Arts
  • Focus: Vietnamese and Asian cuisines with intensive training and hands-on approach.

Vietnam Australia Vocational School (VAAC), Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Program: Bartender
  • Focus: Basic knowledge on how to store, preserve and select ingredients, and practice cocktails, mocktails, hot and cold drinks.

Richie, based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a dynamic Content Writer with a talent for capturing the essence of culinary art.

Richie specializes in creating visually appealing and tasty content, offering a new angle on Vietnamese and other culinary traditions. With a background in graphic design and a love for food styling and photography, he expertly combines beauty with food narratives, encouraging his audience to discover the culinary world through his imaginative perspective.

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