There is no denying that Vietnam has one of the most incredible food scenes in the world. Every corner is dotted with a multitude of street food stalls selling ridiculously yummy dishes at a fraction of the cost. However, it can be quite troublesome to find an authentic vegetarian/vegan dish in Vietnam without understanding the principles behind Vietnamese cooking.
Many of Vietnam’s iconic dishes are not vegetarian friendly; fortunately, the Vietnamese restaurant scene is steadily changing to accommodate the rise of vegetarianism and a healthier lifestyle. So fear not!
Below is everything you need to know when parktaking in Vietnam food tours as a vegetarian/vegan. Let’s explore the divine gastronomy of Vietnam with helloVietnam tour operator and dig even deeper into its culture.
A vegetarian hot pot
Characteristics of Vietnamese cuisine
First things first, let’s take into account the characteristics of Vietnamese gastronomy.
- Fish sauce is the not-so-secret key ingredient and indispensable spice of most Vietnamese dishes.
- Almost every noodle soup is served in meat-based broth, which is considered the very heart and soul of the dish.
Greens served alongside main dishes
- There is a plethora of greens and herbs served alongside for avid plant-eaters to feast on.
- Vietnamese people hardly use dairy in the preparation of food.
- Each region features a different scene of gastronomy as a result of its own historical, geographical, and cultural backgrounds as well as its climate patterns. Northern cuisine is significantly bolder (less sweet, less spicy, and saltier) compared to that of the South (influenced by diverse food cultures from China, Cambodia, and Thailand). Central gastronomy, on the other hand, represents a sophisticated balance of tastes and flavors which is a royal legacy of its glorious days as Vietnam’s imperial capital.
What to do?
Fish sauce: Just a few drops of fish sauce can bring your “borderline” vegetarian culinary experience to life, that is, when you don’t abide by a strict vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Otherwise, the best way to steer clear of it is to specifically ask the chef for no fish sauce.
Nước Mắm or fish sauce
Noodle soups: The fragrant, flavorful, and hearty broth is what completes a bowl of noodle soup. If you ask for yours to be without meat, it’s most likely going to be served in pork-based stock, which is not vegetarian and definitely not vegan. Most non-vegetarian restaurants don’t really accommodate with serving plant-based broth so unless you don’t mind turning a blind eye, you will want to do your homework on local vegetarian/vegan restaurants (nhà hàng chay/quán chay) before going.
Also, when it comes to Vietnam food tours, do not rule out the possibility of stumbling upon a well-hidden eatery on an unassuming alley where the staff speak almost no English.
- If you are a vegetarian, tell the restaurant “tôi ăn chay” (I eat vegetarian food). In case you are a vegan, tell them “tôi ăn chay trường/tôi ăn thuần chay” (I eat vegan food). Be aware that if you ask for your dish to be without meat/fish (không thịt/cá), chances are, it may still contain fish sauce. Hence, you might also want to specify that you don’t want any fish sauce in it “không nước mắm”.
- To single out a specific type of ingredient, use the phrase “Tôi không ăn uống …” (I don’t eat/drink …). For example, thịt bò (beef), thịt gà (chicken), thịt lợn (pork), tôm (shrimp), trứng (egg), sữa (milk), mật ong (honey), mỡ (animal fat), dầu hào (oyster oil), mắm tôm (fermented shrimp paste), etc.
Yummy vegetarian dishes for your Vietnam food tours
With a little bit of research, you’ll find that Vietnamese vegetarian/vegan meals run a wide range, from shoulder pole street vendors to hole-in-the-wall eateries and higher-end restaurants.
The following are meatless yet fulfilling vegetarian dishes for herbivores. Make sure you specify “không nước mắm” (no fish sauce) and “không thịt” (no meat) when you order. Some of them are very simple to make that you can even enjoy it at home.
Vietnamese fried tofu with tomato sauce
- Ðậu phụ sốt cà chua or Vietnamese fried tofu with tomato sauce (served with steamed rice) – A very simple and healthy comfort dish with a sweet and sour flavor and a satisfying texture (crispy on the edge and tender on the inside).
- Rau muống xào tỏi or stir-fried water spinach with garlic (served with steamed rice) – A yummy, crunchy, and healthy side dish catering to anyone’s taste buds.
- Banh Mi with fried or scrambled (rán)/sunny-side-up (ốp la) eggs – An iconic dish stuffed with healthy fillings such as greens, herbs, and a great slathering of sauce, perfect at any time of the day.
- Xôi or steamed sticky rice – When taking a stroll around big cities such as Hanoi or Saigon in the morning, you’re likely to stumble upon a street vendor with two baskets of steamed glutinous rice slung from each end of their pole. There is a vast array of xoi, which includes the plain one and the one steamed together with other seeds such as mung beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, corn, peanuts, etc.
- Com rang chay or vegetarian fried rice - The hearty and flavorful Vietnamese fried rice is loaded with greens, tofu, and peas.
Bo bia ngot
6. Bò bía ngọt or coconut rolls – Originated in Southern Vietnam, the appetizing coconut rolls can be found almost everywhere in Hanoi. Bo Bia is a roll of freshly grated coconut and dried sugar cane sprinkled with black sesame wrapped in corn flour paper, sold by a man or woman riding on or standing by a bicycle with a steel box labeled “Bò Bía” on it.
7. Vegan spring rolls – Packed with nutritious ingredients (rice noodles, tofu, carrots, radishes, cucumber, red pepper, fresh herbs, etc.) and served with a savory peanut dipping sauce, the rolls can be used as both a main course and an appetizer.
Vietnam food tours for vegetarians/vegans – Same same but different!
You can try your luck by wandering around pagodas and temples since the majority of Vietnamese Buddhists practice vegetarianism two times a month (on the first day and 15th days of the lunar calendar). Or, you can take a look at the below list of worth-visiting vegetarian/vegan restaurants (that won’t compromise your funds) for your upcoming street food tours in Vietnam.
Ideas for Hanoi food tours for vegetarians/vegans
Com Chay Nang Tam Vegetarian Restaurant
- Nang Tam Vegetarian Restaurant (79A, Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoan Kiem District) – The first ever vegetarian restaurant in Hanoi, established on October 1st, 1995.
- Bo De Tam Vegetarian Restaurant (34, Pham Huy Thong Street, Ba Dinh District and two other locations in the suburbs of Hanoi) – A vintage themed place with an interesting combination of vegetarian food, tea ceremony, and meditation.
- Loving Hut (147B, Au Co Street, Tay Ho District) – A vegan restaurant franchise with three branches in Hanoi, one in Hai Phong Province, and one in Quang Ninh Province.
- Com Chay Ha Thanh Vegetarian Restaurant (116 lane 166 Kim Ma Street, Ba Ðinh District) – A spacious and airy vegetarian restaurant, featuring a diverse menu of fresh vegetarian food.
- Bo De Chay Vegetarian Restaurant (65 Quan Su Street, Hoan Kiem District) – A Buddhist-style vegetarian restaurant conveniently located next to Quan Su Pagoda, one of the most important Buddhist sites in Vietnam.
- Thien Phat Vegetarian Restaurant (6 Ngo Hue Street, Hai Ba Trung District) – A lovely Buddhist-inspired place to chill out amid the chaotic streets of Hanoi.
- Truc Lam Trai Vegetarian Restaurant (39 Le Ngoc Han Street, Hai Ba Trung District) – An antique-looking restaurant known for its sophisticated dishes.
- Uu Dam Chay Vegetarian Restaurant (34 Hang Bai Street, Hoan Kiem District) – A luxury vegetarian restaurant with a nice view, diverse menu, and visually appealing dishes.
- An Lac – Buffet Vegan Restaurant (109 Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoan Kiem District) – Known for exquisite dishes made entirely with fresh ingredients and by experienced chefs.
- Dakshin Vegetarian Restaurant (94 Hang Trong Street, Hoan Kiem District) – While most vegetarian restaurants in Hanoi serve native Vietnamese cuisine, Dakshin takes a different approach with Indian vegetarian recipes.
Ideas for Saigon food tours for vegetarians/vegans
- Mandala Vegetarian Restaurant (110 Suong Nguyet Anh Street, District 1) – A Tibetan-style restaurant with distinguishable dishes in the midst of the pacesetter Ho Chi Minh City.
- Doa Sen Vang Vegan Restaurant (253/8 Nguyen Van Troi Street, Phu Nhuan District and 5 Tran Hung Dao, Tan Phu District) – A cozy, home-like restaurant to seek out some peace and tranquility in the frantic hustle and bustle of Saigon.
- 3 La Vegetarian Restaurant (32A Cao Ba Nha Street, District 1) – A quiet, relaxed, and rustic ambiance, recalling joyful memories of childhood.
- Om Vegetarian Restaurant (215B2 Nguyen Van Huong Street, District 2) – Inspired by Buddhism with an elegant and roomy ambiance, the restaurant features a wide range of both Oriental and Occidental vegetarian cuisines.
- Here & Now Vegetarian Restaurant (89E Nguyen Cong Hoan, Phu Nhuan District) – Features rustic and mountain themed décor with a Buddha statue inside a small pond, giving off a soothing and tranquil feel. The menu covers a wide range of food served at reasonable prices. This is also a perfect place for catching up over a cup of coffee if you don’t feel like eating.
- Vegeta Vegan Restaurant (684 Dien Bien Phu Street, District 10) – A reputable vegan restaurant utilizing only fresh ingredients from Da Lat City, a high-quality supply source of fruits and vegetables in Vietnam.
- Lau Nam Chay An Nhien Vegan Restaurant (94 Nguyen Van Thu Street, District 1) – A vegan restaurant specializing in mushroom hot pots. All the ingredients are guaranteed to be fresh and organic.
- Dau Home-made Vegan Restaurant (27 Hong Ha Street, Tan Binh District) – A vegan restaurant utilizing only fresh plant-based ingredients such as veggies and mushrooms.
- BioGarten Vegan Restaurant (155A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street, District 3) – A vegan restaurant featuring a perfect balance of the old and the new in its elegant design. The dishes are delicious and meticulously garnished.
Tib Vegetarian Restaurant
10. Tib Vegetarian Restaurant (89 - 91 Phan Ke Binh Street, District 1) – Characterized by Hue’s royal design and cuisine, the restaurant is a nice change from the typical rustic, home-like feel you often see in many other vegetarian restaurants in the area.
Ideas for Hoian food tours for vegetarians/vegans
- Dam Vegetarian Restaurant (71/20 Phan Chu Trinh Street) – A humble, cozy, family-run eatery. No frills, just an authentic vegetarian culinary experience!
- Tan Quang Minh Vegan Restaurant (325 Cua Dai Street) - A small vegan eatery loved by many, with delicious dishes at a very reasonable price.
- Annen Hoi An Vegan Restaurant (465 Cua Dai) – A thriving family-owned vegan restaurant taking pride in only serving dishes made from organic ingredients. Visitors that come to this place can take part in a Yoga class as well.
Notably, cooking classes are a trademark of this ancient town. You will have the chance to get a hands-on experience learning how to make authentic Vietnamese and international vegetarian food such as vegetarian Pho or spring rolls.
Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant from the outside
4. Minh Hien Vegetarian Restaurant (50 Tran Cao Van and 30A Dinh Tien Hoang) – Serving a wide array of tasty treats in both Asian style and European style. Most importantly, the restaurant also offers flexible vegetarian cooking classes catering to each participant.
5. Karma Waters Vegan Restaurant (213 Nguyen Duy Hieu) - A family-run business and charity to promote a sustainable, green, and organic lifestyle. There are also cooking classes where participants can learn how to make authentic Vietnamese and Indian cuisine.
6. Green Bamboo Class (21 Truong Minh Hung Street) – A culinary class that gives you a thorough insight into local as well as Vietnamese gastronomy on a personal level.