Incredible, Affordable Street Food Delights Western Visitors in Central Vietnam with “Intoxicating Aromas and Addictive Flavors”

What is it about cheap food that is so enticing to foreign visitors?


Most foreign tourists who come to Vietnam comment that they love street food, which is sold at small shops or even on sidewalks. These inexpensive dishes truly represent the culinary culture of the Vietnamese people.

Max FcFarlin – a guy from the US, is also one of the foreign tourists who has a great love for Vietnamese street food. With over 600,000 followers on his YouTube channel, Max often shares videos about his life in Vietnam and his culinary journey across the S-shaped country.

Max FcFarlin – a US tourist who loves Vietnamese cuisine (Photo: Max FcFarlin)

In a recently uploaded video, Max shared his experience of trying a dish that costs just over $1 but he really liked it. He had this dish during his trip to Da Nang, and the place he ate at was not a famous or luxurious restaurant. “I closed my eyes and randomly picked a place,” Max said. And the dish he was referring to is bun mam nem – a specialty of Da Nang and the whole Central region.

As the name suggests, the special ingredient that creates the flavor of this dish is mam nem – a kind of fish sauce. This sauce is made from various ingredients and undergoes a meticulous and elaborate process.

Specifically, fresh fishes (like anchovy, juiced herring, and grunted herring) are caught and marinated with salt and other spices according to the traditional recipe. After a long period of time, the final product is a dark brown mam nem sauce with a thick and rich texture and a unique aroma. The distinct smell of mam nem is so recognizable that many diners can even smell it from a distance.

Mam nem is considered the “soul” of bun mam nem (Illustrative photo)

In the provinces of the Central region such as Da Nang, Hue, Quang Ngai, and Quang Nam, mam nem is used as a dipping sauce for many different dishes. To enhance the flavor of mam nem, depending on each person’s taste, garlic or chili can be added. However, bun mam nem is considered to be the most special dish because it uses a large amount of mam nem to pour over the noodles and other ingredients. That’s why mam nem is considered an important element, the “soul” of bun mam nem.

Aside from the “soul” of mam nem, there are many other ingredients that contribute to the aromatic and enticing flavor of bun mam. Based on the video that Max shared, the dish he ordered was the special and complete version, priced at 40,000 VND, equivalent to about $1.7. This dish includes fresh noodles, beef sausage, fish sausage, sour fermented pork rolls, roasted pork, steamed pork, pig’s ear, shredded young jackfruit, roasted peanuts, and various aromatic herbs, pickled cucumbers, and sliced sour mango. When eating, diners need to mix the dish well and add vinegar, chili, satay sauce, or even more mam nem if desired.

Bun mam nem is a combination of various ingredients (Photo: VinWonders)

Being an American, Max McFarlin is not afraid of the “smelly” dishes of the Vietnamese. He enjoyed bun mam nem with great enthusiasm and continuously praised it as a delicious dish. “The sausage is tender, tasty, and flavorful. The mam nem sauce has a fragrant smell and has addictive properties. The noodles are also fresh and delicious,” Max commented.

In addition, he also loved the roasted pork, praising the perfect ratio of lean meat and crispy skin that blended perfectly together. “Because it’s so delicious, I had to order an extra plate of roasted pork to add to the bun mam nem,” Max added. Overall, every component of the dish is appealing to this American tourist.

Foreign tourists enjoy bun mam nem (Photo: Max McFarlin)

In addition to bun mam nem, tourists who come to Da Nang and the Central region can also enjoy many other specialties. These can include mi quang (Quang-style noodles), banh xeo (Vietnamese savory crepes), banh trang cuon thit heo (rice paper rolls with grilled pork), or banh canh ca loc (thick noodle soup with snakehead fish). Many of these dishes also use mam nem as a rich and flavorful dipping sauce, such as banh xeo and banh trang cuon thit heo.