Dau Homemade brings the best of Hanoi’s traditional culture to guests of all origins. Enjoy amazing fried tofu and rice vermicelli cakes with an added treat—a classical water puppet performance—all in the heart of Saigon’s city centre.
When one discusses Vietnamese food, especially that of northern origin, dishes like beef Pho and Bun Cha, a barbecued meat vermicelli dish made famous by ex-president Barack Obama and late gourmet extraordinaire Anthony Bourdain, are often mentioned. However, unbeknownst to many travellers, Bun Dau Mam Tom, which translates simply to “vermicelli, tofu and shrimp paste”, might actually take the top spot in the hearts of many locals.
Dau Homemade: Hanoian Gastronomy and Performance Arts in the Heart of Saigon’s District 1
Ms Giang, a true-blue Hanoian and cabin crew member for 15 years, decided to open Dau Homemade in Saigon to appease the demanding taste buds of local foodies and gourmet travellers. The restaurant has now expanded to a total of six branches. Every location of Dau Homemade features stunning Vietnamese-style imagery and wall art depicting the lives of locals, especially those of Hanoi.
“You’ll find a Bun Dau place in almost every alley and market in Hanoi”, Giang said proudly.
Bun Dau Mam Tom is a gourmet Vietnamese fried tofu specialty for many reasons. Frying perfect tofu isn’t child’s play. Dau Homemade makes its tofu in-house because it is practically impossible to acquire so it is suitable for the dish. It is traditionally made in Mo village, 20 km from Hanoi’s mesmerising Old Quarter.
Tofu at Dau Homemade is always fresh and never refrigerated: its centre becomes rigid when chilled. The chefs at Dau Homemade also assure that the oil’s temperature stays between 70°C and 100°C. No deep-fryers are used here, only traditional woks. The resultant masterpiece is pleasingly crispy yet both sweet and fluffy inside. Fragrant herbs and vegetables such as Vietnamese balm, perilla and cucumber—essential pairings that balance well with the fried tofu—are grown at a select farm in Lam Dong province. The dish is also enjoyed with sliced pork leg and pressed rice vermicelli cakes, something considered unique to Vietnam. The star of the show, Mam Tom, or Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste, is an extremely savoury dipping paste that has been considered the blue cheese of Vietnam, meaning it is an acquired taste.
Giang explained the process of creating a perfect dipping sauce based on fermented shrimp paste: “Squeeze kumquat juice into it, [and] a little sugar, it has to be brown sugar! [And] also hot oil and a little bit of rice wine. Add some chillies if you like. That’s our secret”.
It’s a true food culture experience.
For diners who prefer a lighter dipping sauce, Dau Homemade also offers soy sauce and a light sweet and sour fish sauce mix. Vegetarians may request the chefs to fry the tofu in a new batch of oil so that they can dine in comfort with no worries about cross-contamination.
Exotic Vietnamese Delicacies at Saigon’s Dau Homemade Restaurant
Lau Rieu, a slightly sour and highly savoury freshwater crab hot pot with beef is yet another gourmet dish served at Dau Homemade, a testimony to Giang’s dedication and love of food. Naturally-sweet freshwater crabs are ground, boiled, filtered and lightly sauteed with spices to create a pure and tasty base—most other places use fillers such a tofu and eggs. The impressive Vietnamese crab hot pot broth is finally completed with pork bones and special northern-Vietnamese vinegar. Enjoy this dish with fresh rice vermicelli, Vietnamese sausage and slices of beef.
Other exotic delicacies such as steamed escargots with pork, mushroom and ginger leaf as well as cha ruoi (grilled chopped clam worm), are an absolute favourite amongst Japanese and Korean guests. Finish your meal here with the pickled dracontomelon drink, yet another exotic beverage that could be described as a cross between plum juice and lemonade. Dau Homemade’s Special Sweet Soup appears in its dessert menu: the soft chilled tofu served with jasmine syrup is a delight.
Water Puppet Theatre and Delicious Vietnamese Food at Dau Homemade Near Ben Thanh Market
Beyond food, Giang’s commitment to the preservation of traditional culture has led her to study traditional Vietnamese water puppetry with grandmaster Mr. Phan Thanh Liem, the seventh-generation descendant of a renowned Hanoian puppeteer family clan. Liem pioneered the mini-theatre for the traditional art and has thus performed in multiple countries abroad. He chose Giang as the only student outside of his family—the clan has never before accepted apprentices beyond the bloodline.
Giang also organises performances at primary schools on a regular basis, a core activity that has led her to become a member of Vietnam’s prestigious Center for Research Conservation and Development of National Culture (CRCDC), which strives to preserve and disseminate the beauty of local performing arts including the likes of Cai Luong theatre and music of ethnic minorities.
Guests at Dau Homemade can enjoy the shows for free at 8 pm every sunday at Dau Homemade’s outlet at 52 Le Lai, 50 metres from Ben Thanh Market.