Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

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Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

One thing that you observe in Vietnam is the love for food. Some even call it foodie’s paradise. The Vietnamese culture and food are inseparable which is predominantly rich in meat and sea food. But there is another side to the coin, where Vietnamese food vegetarian has its presence.

Everywhere on streets, on sidewalks, outside houses, you will see small colored stools lined up and people sitting and indulging on Vietnamese food or tea.

Vietnamese Vegetarian Food

Although meat and seafood dominate the Vietnamese palate, there are quite a few vegetarian options to look out for. Rice is a staple diet of Vietnamese and is grown in abundance.

Tip: Vegetarian is termed as ‘Chay’ in Vietnamese. So if a dish name has word Chay, you know its vegetarian.

My mother is a strict vegetarian and it becomes difficult for her to even stand the stench of seafood. It is common for the smell wafting in the market area/streets. So we had to take care of that front while choosing where to eat.

But we will try and help you with the vegetarian Vietnamese food names that you can enjoy safely. Not only there are many vegetarian meal options, but we were surprised to explore the enormous variety of Vietnamese desserts and beverages. So let’s dig in.

1. Banh Mi (pronounced Banh mee)

It is the Vietnamese sandwich that you can get at every nook and corner. Banh Mi is a Vietnamese word for bread. It’s a baguette that is split lengthwise and filled with lettuce and other ingredients. It’s a complete meal in itself.
Banh Mi Chay is the vegetarian version of Banh Mi. With a humble filling of lettuce, cucumbers, other veggies, mayo, and tofu instead of meat, it’s wholesome. This is the best Vietnamese vegetarian food and can be customized as per your taste. This is one Vietnamese food recipe that can be even tried at home.

Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

If you are ok eating egg, then fried eggs can be added too.

Note: If you are allergic to Soy, please avoid Tofu.

2. Pho (pronounced as ‘fuh’)

Did you know?

Pho is the national dish of Vietnam.

Vietnamese people begin their day with a flavorful wholesome meal. Pho is a broth soup with rice noodles, vegetables, chicken, beef or shrimp in it.

Pho Chay is the vegetarian version of Pho. Usually, the Pho is made from chicken or beef broth, but in Pho Chay the broth will be from vegetables. The vegetarian version includes mushroom and tofu for the healthy dose. Pho Chay would mostly be available in Vegan or vegetarian restaurants.

Pho is mainly a breakfast food perfect to begin the day with to keep you healthy and going. Pho is available at all street side eateries and even at the makeshift eating joints outside homes, but will mostly be serving the non-veg version.

If you want to eat like the locals, then we highly recommend taking food tours and know about the food culture. 

3. Goi Cuon Chay (Vietnamese spring Roll)

Unlike the fried versions of spring rolls that we generally eat, these are the healthiest and the most flavorful rolls that I have ever eaten.

Loaded with fresh veggies and thin rice noodles, the vegetarian version can have tofu. These no-cook rolls are easy to make within minutes and perfect for warm weather.

Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

The delicate thin rice paper sheet is kept in shallow warm water to make it soft and filled with all the ingredients. The colors and flavors ooze out of these transparent rolls making them irresistible to eat.

In fact it is very interesting to watch how they make these thin rice sheets over steam from smooth rice paste. These are then spread over to dry.

4. Stir fried vegetables/mushroom

The stir fry vegetables are the best for vegetarians. With a wide variety of mushroom available, this versatile dish can have broccoli, baby corns, mushrooms, bok choy etc. This can be teamed up with steamed rice or noodles for the meal.

5. Stir fried tofu

Tofu, the bean curd is made from soy. This power packed protein makes a great alternative for meat. When stir fried with sauce and seasoning, it’s hard to resist this simple yet tasty dish.

Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

6. Rau Muong Xao Toi (Stir-Fried Spinach with Garlic)

This is a favorite side dish that is generally eaten with fish. But this stir-fried water spinach can be very well eaten with steamed rice for a great meal.

7. Veg Fried Rice

Rice is the staple food of Vietnam. So, you cannot go wrong with it. With a healthy dose of veggies, this is the best dish to have anywhere.

Even if the restaurant doesn’t have Veg fried rice on their menu, they can customize fried rice according to your choice of veggies.

Please Note: Egg would be added to Veg fried rice, so do specify not to add it if you do not eat eggs.

8. Veg Noodles

There are many kinds of noodles available in Vietnam – most common being the rice noodles, rice vermicelli (thinner version of rice noodles), egg noodles, glass noodles, Banh Canh (noodles made from tapioca flour). The list doesn’t end here and is very elaborate.

Just like veg fried rice, veg noodles can be ordered or customized at any restaurant serving noodles.

Vietnamese Beverages

Vietnam is a tea and coffee loving country. So going from Vietnam without trying them would be incomplete. Besides them there is a wide variety of Vietnamese drinks and dessert drinks.

1. Vietnamese Tea

Tea forms an integral part of a Vietnamese culture and has been a part since 13th century. They begin their day with a hot cup of tea and can have it multiple times in a day either cold or hot green tea.

Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

You can see their love for tea or bonding with each other that there are many roadside makeshift shops called “Quan Coc’ serving tea. It is a common scene during the day to see students, workers, elders or homemakers sitting on small stools lined up on sidewalks and bonding over a cup of hot or iced tea.

2. Egg Coffee (Cà phê trứng in Vietnamese)

If you ok with eggs, then egg coffee is a must try. I was amazed to hear this combo as had never imagined it. So taking the liberty to mention it here, even in this vegetarian list.

This is a typical Vietnamese drink made from egg yolks, condensed milk, sugar and robusta coffee. It is served both hot and cold.

We tried the cold version at the Giang Café, the birthplace of egg coffee and loved it. We could not feel the egg smell, just felt the smooth silky texture.
Price – 25,000 VND

Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

3. Coconut coffee

You can realize the love for coffee that Vietnamese hold with the wide variations of coffee available.

The café Cong ca phe is famous for its coconut coffee that is served hot or cold.
Price – 45,000VND

Did you know?

Vietnamese like their coffee strong. And they generally add condensed milk instead of fresh milk to the coffee.

4. Che Suong Sa

This is a very popular multi colored and multi layered drink made from jelly, tapioca pearls & coconut milk along with fruits like pomegranate seeds, mango and others.

This beautiful and scrumptious rainbow drink can be savored as a dessert and is a popular Vietnamese dessert drink. The chewy jelly with soft tapioca pearls blending with cold coconut crème and the crunch of fruits is a wonderful combination.

We highly recommend trying it.

Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

5. Nuoc mia (Sugarcane Juice)

is the sweet sugarcane juice that you can find being sold on streets and restaurants. Extracted from pressed sugarcane sticks, this is refreshing to drink in the hot Vietnamese weather.

Desserts in Vietnam

Vietnamese seem to have a sweet tooth as there is a vast variety of Vietnamese desserts available in restaurants and as Vietnamese street food. The Vietnamese sweets range from dry fried snacks, cakes, puddings and Vietnamese dessert drinks.

1. Banh Tieu (Vietnamese Doughnut)

Banh Tieu are lightly sweet, hollow and fluffy doughnuts sprinkled with sesame seeds on outside. You can find them being sold on streets.

2. Banh Cam or Banh Ran

These are deep fried rice balls filled with mung paste and covered with sesame seeds. It is a traditional Vietnamese dessert that can be consumed for breakfast or snacks. (Mung is a lentil that is soaked overnight and cooked to make into a fine paste).

Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

These dried sweets can be eaten as snacks and are addictive. I had to literally stop myself from eating another.

3. Che Ba Mau (three color dessert)

It is a popular dessert with 3 colored layers – Yellow mung bean paste, Green agar jelly and Red kidney beans covered with condensed milk or coconut cream.

Dig into this chilled dessert and relish the symphony of different textures create magic in your mouth.

4. Che Chuoi

This is a pudding made from banana and tapioca (also called sago) pearls cooked in coconut milk usually served warm. It is a popular Vietnamese dessert cooked at homes.

5. Che Bap

Che Bap is the Vietnamese sweet corn pudding made from simmering corn kernels and tapioca pearls in coconut milk into a delectable thick pudding.

6. Mango sticky rice or Xôi xoài (pronounced soi Swai)

Mango sticky rice is a popular sweet dish across Southeast Asia and has variations across the region.

Vietnam being an agricultural country produces a wide variety of rice including the glutinous sticky rice.
The sticky rice is cooked with sugar and coconut milk and the thick sticky rice is served with chilled cut mango slices. Even though it looks very simple, the combination tastes wonderful.

Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

Tips for Vietnamese Food

  1. Always good to clarify no meat and no seafood while ordering the vegetarian dish, unless you are in a Vegetarian restaurant. If you don’t eat egg, please specify this as well as an egg is added to veg fried rice at most of the places.
  2. If you are heading over to a cruise or taking a tour, do mention your food choices in advance to avoid any glitches. We were served vegetarian noodles/rice with stir-fried tofu and veggies during the cruise and day tours.
  3. When you get bored of rice and noodles, head over to an Indian restaurant to get a wide vegetarian variety. There are many Indian restaurants in Vietnam.
  4. Download the Happycow app or search for vegetarian/vegan restaurants in any city.

Vegetarian Restaurants in Vietnam

Even though the Vietnamese are mainly non-vegetarians, there are many Buddhist monks who follow a vegetarian diet. Across Vietnam there are many Vegan & Vegetarian restaurants in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and other major cities:

Minh Hien Vegetarian restaurant

This restaurant in Hoi An is a family-owned vegetarian restaurant which is favorite amongst travelers. They even conduct cooking classes that are informal and fun to participate in.

Hum Vegetarian

This is the most popular vegetarian restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City and has three locations spread across the city. With the classic ambiance and all-natural ingredients, flavorful and delectable dishes are prepared that are free of MSG.

Read the reviews at Tripadvisor.

Saigon Vegan

It is a vegan restaurant in Ho Chi Minh city. Boasting of over 100 vegan items on its menu and even a vegan kids menu, it is a place worth trying. The coffee and other drinks are also served with soy milk instead of cow milk.

Read the reviews at Tripadvisor.

Secret garden

is a Vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City. It is located on the rooftop of an old building with many home-cooked vegetarian options on its menu.

Loving Hut

Loving Hut is a chain of vegan & vegetarian restaurant spread all across the world including various cities of Vietnam – Hanoi, Ha Long city, Phu Quoc, Ho Chi Minh and many more.

New Day

is a popular vegetarian-friendly restaurant in Hanoi that has a separate veg section. There are various ala carte options or as set meals.

Cong Ca phe

It won’t be wrong to call it the Starbucks of Vietnam. It is the most popular café across Vietnam where you can sit and enjoy your cup of coffee or tea. We recommend trying Coconut coffee and iced tea.

Vegetarian Food in Vietnam

Did you know?

Vietnamese refrain from eating non-vegetarian twice a month – on full moon and new moon day.

Vietnamese Words to help

  1. Chay – means vegetarian
  2. Chè – traditional Vietnamese sweet beverage or dessert
  3. Rau – vegetables
  4. Bánh – category of food including cakes, pastries
  5. Tôi ãn chay” means “I’m a vegetarian”
  6. Không thịt – means “without meat

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Travel Melodies
Last Updated : May 01,2021
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