April 12, 2017

Vermicelli w/Fried Tofu & Anchovy Fish Sauce (Bun Dau Mam Tom)

Innumerable pop-up street stalls in Hanoi serve this simple but filling dish during lunchtime.  I passed by one such outfit then had to return as I saw crowds of workers hunched over their plates sitting on impossibly tiny plastic stools - a long line on either side of the single cook, quickly and expertly frying tofu on a small fryer right on the sidewalk.  
When I finally got my own plate piled with rice vermicelli, fresh greens and freshly fried tofu, along with that heavenly, citrusy fish sauce - I was in street food heaven.  And even better - it cost less than $2.
Ever since I got back from Vietnam, I have had this dish at least once a week.  It's quick and easy to make with a huge flavor payoff.  The below is the basic dish.  I've added sliced hardboiled eggs; sliced cucumbers; sauteed, shredded, leftover chicken.  Really, whatever meat or vegetable you have on hand.  The star of this dish is the salty fishy sauce.
Vermicelli w/Fried Tofu & Anchovy Fish Sauce 
(Bun Dau Mam Tom)

1 lb package of extra firm tofu

Rice vermicelli (either small, medium or large: large is typically used for pho but I've used all different sizes and they all taste great with this)

Chopped dark, leafy lettuce
3 green onions thinly sliced

1/4 olive oil
1/4 anchovy fish sauce
Juice of one lemon
Juice of one lime
One lime cut into quarters

Olive oil

1. Place the block of extra firm tofu in between the palms of your hands and gently squeeze the excess water from it.
2. Cut it into 10 rectangular slices and salt and pepper each side.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large, nonstick skillet to medium heat.  Do not put any more oil because then the tofu won't brown.
4. Place tofu in the skillet so that it's not crowded. Brown on both sides - about 10 minutes total.  Don't move around or saute.  Just leave in place until brown on one side then flip.  Once browned on both sides, place on a paper towel-lined plate.
5. Fill a large pot with water and heat to boiling.  Place package of rice vermicelli and cook until soft.  Drain and let cool.
6. Mix well the 1/4 cup of fish sauce, 1/4 cup of olive oil, lemon juice and lime juice in a bowl.
7. To assemble your dish, put fish sauce mixture in small, separate bowl, with a heap of rice vermicelli, a handful of greens (lettuce & cilantro), slices of tofu, and slice of lime on a plate.  Sprinkle sliced green onions on top. You can dip the tofu in the sauce as you eat or pour the sauce over the vermicelli as a dressing.  Or do both!  

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