A Vegetarians and Vegans Food Guide To Vietnam
Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
How vegetarian-friendly is Vietnam?
Vietnam, like most other South East Asian countries, is known for its meaty delicacies all across the globe. But in the hordes of frog legs, snails, pork, dog meat etc. We forget that a lot of people here follow Buddhism. Moreover, veganism is becoming more and more popular as a result we can see Vietnam’s landscape dotted with quite a few vegetarian restaurants. Vietnam offers a wide range of vegetarian delights that will make your taste buds dance with joy. The locals are incredibly accommodating and always willing to make vegetarian versions of their famous dishes. And trust me, there are some mouthwatering treats to try! In my vegetarian food guide to Vietnam, I’ll take you through some of my favourite vegan restaurants in Vietnam, vegetarian Vietnamese dishes that are vegetarian versions of some of the most famous Vietnamese dishes.
Hop on & let’s go on a culinary journey to Vietnam and find the must-try Vietnamese food, only in this blog, you’ll find vegetarian or vegan Vietnamese food!
How do I communicate my dietary preferences as a vegetarian in Vietnam?
When it comes to communicating your dietary preferences as a vegetarian in Vietnam, a friendly approach works wonders! Here are some tips to help you navigate the Vietnamese food scene.
First things first, it’s always helpful to learn a few basic Vietnamese phrases. So, practice saying “Tôi ăn chay” (I am vegetarian) or “Không thịt” (No meat). Don’t worry if your pronunciation isn’t perfect; locals appreciate the effort!
To make things easier, consider carrying a small card or a digital image that clearly states you’re a vegetarian. This could be a note with these two phrases: Tôi ăn chay & Không thịt. It’s like having your own personal vegetarian badge!
I’ve often been asked- are Vietnamese people familiar with vegetarianism? Being specific is key. Let them know exactly what you want to avoid, like meat, fish sauce, or shrimp paste. The clearer you are, the easier it’ll be for them to whip up a delicious veggie creation just for you.
When interacting with restaurant staff or locals, keep it simple and friendly. Just explain your dietary preferences politely, and ask for recommendations on vegetarian dishes. They might even have secret veggie gems you haven’t heard of! Many times I’ve had cooks whip up some curry with local veggies, even if it was not on the menu.
Speaking of deliciousness, embrace the local vegetarian dishes! Pho Chay, Banh Xeo, or Com Chay are just a few examples of the scrumptious options you can try. When ordering, don’t forget to mention the vegetarian version to ensure a happy tummy.
If you’re on the lookout for vegetarian-friendly spots, keep an eye out for restaurants or cafes that proudly advertise their veggie options. They’re like little havens of veggie delight, waiting to be discovered.
Lastly, always approach the conversation with kindness and a smile. Vietnamese people are known for their hospitality, and they’ll go out of their way to help you find vegetarian Vietnamese food choices once they understand your needs.
Best Vegetarian Restaurants in Vietnam
- Vegan Bánh mì, Hanoi: A vegan food cart based in Hanoi. They don’t only sell Banh Mi but also a few other popular dishes like noodle salad, spring rolls & pho. The cost range from 30000 – 40000 VDN.
- Vegan Family Restaurant, Ho Chi Minh: Located in the very popular District 1, this restaurant offers a variety of traditional & western options to choose from. The menu is all organic & super affordable. Hot pot is a must-try here.
- Veggie Saigon, Ho Chi Minh: One of the highest-rated vegan restaurants in Ho Chi Minh & for the right reasons. A tastefully designed traditional Vietnamese menu with affordable prices. You also get a discount if you bring your own cutlery!
- The Fisherman, Hoi An: Once a seafood restaurant now turned into a vegan haven! The name is misleading, but that’s that. The menu is all vegan & if the food doesn’t take your breath the view from the cafe sure will. Try their smoothie bowls for the perfect start of the day.
- Ans Vegetarian Cuisine, Da Nang: This one’s not a fully vegan restaurant but offers a variety of options on the menu. Do try them out while in Da Nang.
- Au Lac Chay, Nha Trang: This one is an experience! They offer only a daily special menu with each item just about $1, pick from an array of dishes at this homestyle place.
- Filthy Vegan, Ho Chi Minh: A fun vegan take on western delicacies. Located in the heart of District 1, Filthy vegan takes zero waste seriously. They also have an all-vegan bakery to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings.
- Banh My Chay, Da Nang: A food stall serving the best of Banh Mi that Da Nang has to offer, all vegan of course!
- Chickpea Eatery, Da Nang: A cute cafe serving homestyle meals from fried rice, pho, and noodles to buddha bowls. Name it, they have it.
- Nhat Da, Hoi An: A daily buffet-style eatery. They are known for their mock meat & bamboo dishes. A wonderful place for a simple wholesome meal.
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What are some popular vegetarian dishes in Vietnam?
For all those who are wondering: Are there vegetarian versions of traditional Vietnamese dishes? Yes! Check out this list of my favourite vegetarian version of famous Vietnamese dishes!
It had to be the top of my Vegetarian food guide to Vietnam. Pho is a must-try Vietnamese food, for it is a warm hug for your taste buds! A steaming bowl of heavenly goodness, packed with fragrant herbs, slurp-worthy rice noodles, and all sorts of veggie delights. Pho Chay is readily available in vegetarian-friendly restaurants throughout Vietnam and typically costs around 30,000 – 50,000 VND.
Get ready for a vegetarian twist on the iconic Vietnamese sandwich – Banh Mi Chay! A must mention this in my vegetarian food guide to Vietnam. Now you even get these in a number of Indian cities, imagine the popularity of this famous Vietnamese food. Bánh mì is a crusty baguette filled with marinated tofu or seitan, along with pickled vegetables, fresh herbs, and a drizzle of savoury sauce. Usually priced around 20,000 – 40,000 VND, depending on the type of establishment.
Bánh Xeo Chay
Let me introduce you to the wonderful world of Banh Xeo! This mouthwatering dish is vegetarian Vietnamese street food. Picture this: a crispy, golden pancake filled with bean sprouts, mushrooms, and sometimes tofu. The first bite is pure delight—a delightful crunch followed by a burst of flavours that will make your taste buds dance with joy. Wrap it in fresh lettuce and herbs, dip it in a savoury sauce, and you’re in for a treat! When it comes to cost, you’ll be pleased to know that Banh Xeo won’t empty your wallet. You can enjoy this scrumptious delight for around 20,000 – 40,000 VND per pancake.
Rau Muong Xao Toi/ Morning Glory with garlic
After Pho, this was my favourite vegetarian Vietnamese dish. This must-try Vietnamese dish features water spinach, also known as rau muong or morning glory, sautéed with garlic and chilli. Rau Muong Xao Toi is a popular side dish in Vietnamese cuisine, and it pairs well with rice or noodles. I’ve had this dish as a main for just 20,000 – 40,000 VND.
Summer rolls/ Goi Cuon
Goi Cuon, also known as fresh summer rolls or fresh spring rolls. It is a must-try vegetarian dish in Vietnam. These translucent rice paper rolls are filled with a mix of fresh herbs, rice vermicelli, tofu, and sometimes avocado or mango. Every bite is a burst of freshness and crunch, enhanced by the zesty flavours of the dipping sauce. It’s like a healthy and flavorful salad wrapped in a delicate package. You can enjoy these delectable rolls for around 20,000 – 40,000 VND per roll.
Get ready for a crispy sensation with Cha Gio, my friend! These fried spring rolls are a vegetarian delight that is a must-try Vietnamese street food. These crispy rolls come in a variety of flavours like tofu, veggies and even glass noodles! Dip it in tangy sauces, and your taste buds will thank you for the flavour explosion. Cha Gio is a crowd-pleaser and a must-try on your vegetarian Vietnamese food journey. These tasty treats are for around 10,000 – 20,000 VND per roll.
Com Chay is a plate of aromatic vegetarian rice served with an assortment of tasty side dishes like stir-fried vegetables, savoury tofu, pickles, and sometimes even mock meat, all coming together to create a perfect vegetarian Vietnamese food. You’ll find Com Chay at a number of Vietnamese street food restaurants as well, usually around 30,000 – 50,000 VND per plate.
Xoi Chay is a famous Vietnamese dish consisting of sticky rice steamed with mung beans and topped with crispy fried shallots and a drizzle of soy sauce. Mostly had a snack or breakfast in Vietnam. Xoi Chay is not only delicious but also pocket-friendly, usually priced around 10,000 – 20,000 VND.
Banana flower salad
Vietnam has a variety of salad options. This one was unique of them all and requires a mention in my vegetarian food guide to Vietnam. The blossom/flower of the banana is a delicate treat. Together with bean sprouts, onion, some spices, and peanuts, it makes a great salad. The cost of Banana Flower Salad can vary depending on the location and the establishment where you order it. In Vietnam, the price of Banana Flower Salad typically ranges from around 30,000 to 60,000 VND.
Chan Chua Chay
This vegetarian sour soup is a burst of vibrant flavours that will awaken your senses. A tangy broth infused with tamarind, tomatoes, and an assortment of vegetables. Canh Chua Chay is a popular choice for vegetarians in Vietnam, and the best part is that it’s quite affordable too! You can enjoy a bowl of this delicious soup for around 30,000 – 50,000 VND.
No vegetarian food guide to Vietnam is complete without a desert! Che is a Vietnamese dessert soup that comes in a variety of flavours and ingredients. It’s made with a combination of ingredients such as beans, fruits, and jelly, all swimming in a sweet and refreshing soup base. Che is a widely available vegetarian Vietnamese street food. Prices can vary depending on the type and size, but you can generally enjoy a bowl of Che for around 10,000 – 30,000 VND.
Speaking of sweets! We can’t end the Vietnam food guide without mentioning its fruits. Vietnam is home to a variety of tropical fruits and as a fruit lover, I just could not get enough of it! From the rare dragon fruits, rambutans, and peaches to mangoes, pineapples, and watermelons name it they have it
Apart from the few street foods mentioned above, you will find fried rice, fried noodles, stir-fried vegetables and whatnot. There are a number of Indian and Buddhist restaurants serving vegetarian food. I did not try the Indian food in Vietnam but from what I heard it is pretty nice. The variety of vegetarian food may be lesser than the meaty delights that they have to offer but that should not stop you from tasting some amazing flavours of Vietnam.
What ingredients should I watch out for when dining out as a vegetarian in Vietnam?
When dining out as a vegetarian in Vietnam, it’s essential to be mindful of certain ingredients that may be commonly used in Vietnamese cuisine. My vegetarian food guide to Vietnam lists down the ingredients to watch out for:
- Fish Sauce: Fish sauce, known as “nuoc mam,” is a staple in Vietnamese cooking and is used as a flavour enhancer in many dishes. As a vegetarian, you’ll want to avoid dishes that contain fish sauce. Be sure to communicate your dietary preferences to the server or chef.
- Shrimp Paste: Shrimp paste, or “mam tom,” is another common ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, particularly in dipping sauces and certain dishes. It’s important to inquire whether the dish or sauce contains shrimp paste and opt for alternatives if necessary.
- Meat Broth/Stock: Some vegetarian dishes may still use meat-based broths or stocks for flavouring. It’s recommended to clarify with the restaurant staff if the broth or stock used in a particular dish is vegetarian-friendly.
- Gelatin and Animal-based Additives: Gelatin and other animal-based additives can sometimes be found in desserts, jelly-like sweets, or even certain drinks. Read the ingredient labels or inquire about the ingredients before indulging in these treats.
- Hidden Ingredients: While many vegetarian dishes are explicitly labelled or easy to identify, there may be instances where non-vegetarian ingredients are hidden. It’s always helpful to communicate your dietary preferences to the restaurant staff and ask about the ingredients used in a specific dish.