Vietnam is a country famous for it’s food, and you can tell. There are street food vendors everywhere, people carrying chopped up fruit, and endless restaurants. You cannot go hungry here. However Vietnam isn’t the easiest for vegans as a lot of dishes are made with fish sauce, but you can get around it without too much trouble.
During my time in Vietnam I visited Hanoi, Hoi An, Nha Trang, and Saigon. I found all of these to have distinct characters and their own specialities. For example, pho (probably the most famous Vietnamese dish) is eaten at all times of day in the north, whereas only usually for breakfast in the south. But the food in each of these places was undeniably delicious.
Pho is the signature dis of Hanoi. You will find it on every street, guaranteed! Pho is a noodle soup served in broth, usually with beansprouts and other greens and beef. I suppose I should get the bad news out of the way first: pho is made with bone broth, so even if you order it without meat it’s not vegetarian and definitely not vegan. I didn’t do my research properly and only found this out after I had tried it. I won’t lie, it’s absolutely delicious, and I would even go so far as to say that if you don’t mind turning a blind eye, it’s totally worth going for it!
Qua Cho Que in the old quarter of Vietnam has some really nice vegetarian food, including the classic stir-fried vegetables with rice. Of course it’s more expensive than street food but still worth it.
If you decide to go on a cruise in Ha Long Bay (you’d have to be crazy to miss it out!) then I definitely recommend Garden Bay Cruises. I enjoyed a 2 day 1 night cruise with them and they catered perfectly to all my dietary requirements! I was served delicious plates with tofu curry, fresh vegetable spring rolls, caramelised pineapple, and even vegan pancakes for breakfast! Plus when they did a hands-on demonstration of how to make fried spring rolls they created a special vegan filling just for me so I could roll my own and eat them after. So accommodating!
In a country already famous for it’s food Hoi An surely has to be at the very top. This is partly obvious thanks to the huge number of cooking classes offered here.
Quan Chay Dam is a tiny vegan street food “restaurant” which serves vegan pho as well as a buffet where you can get a plateful for only 20,000 Dong (less than £1). It is very well hidden on a tiny street, and the staff speak almost no English, so it definitely makes for an interesting experience! I had no clue what some of the foods were on my plate but it tasted amazing.
On the island every restaurant advertises vegetarian options. I had stir-fried vegetables at Barley one night which were really good, and Dac San Hoi An has the most amazing super potent ginger tea for only 20,000 Dong.
Minh Ninh had to be the highlight for me though. It’s a vegetarian restaurant which also offers cooking classes every morning for $15 per person. After having dinner there one evening I enjoyed the food so much that I asked to join the class the next day. When I arrived I was surprised to find it was just me – I was to have a 1-on-1 cooking class with a wonderful older Vietnamese woman. I was allowed to choose any 2 items on the menu I wanted to make, so I chose pho and fried spring rolls. I was given paper and a pen to write everything down as quickly as I could, and together this lady and I made some delicious Vietnamese food. She was really knowledgeable and had accumulated a great deal of wisdom over her many years of cooking, and it was a privilege to learn from her. I cannot recommend this place highly enough!
This city is famous for the beach and the Russian tourists! This means it can be more expensive than other places, but if you stay away from the beach then it’s not too bad. Every day I went to Cafe Des Amis just a short walk away from the beach, which is cheap, and has several pages of vegetarian options on the menu including vegetable spring rolls which were perfectly crispy. Plus you get free bananas with every meal – an added bonus! They also have vegan options for breakfast such as a fruit platter or a baguette with peanut butter, to which I of course added the free banana!
Louisiana Brewhouse is more expensive than other places but has delicious stir-fried vegetables, and their beers are just fantastic. I fell in love with the passion beer there which contains passion fruit extract, I highly recommend trying it!
The A Markt near the beach also has milk free sugar free fruit smoothies – I had the mango paradise.
I unfortunately didn’t get to spend as much time here as I would have liked – there’s just too much to see! There is a juice and smoothie bar on Pham Ngu Lao which has fruit and avocado options. It was slightly disappointing as there was way too much ice in my smoothie, but it was just around the corner from my hostel which was convenient. Also Huong Vi restaurant off Pham Ngu Lao has an extensive vegetarian menu. Their mushroom claypot was seriously amazing.
Vietnam Top Tips:
- Pho is not vegetarian even without meat, but if you’re willing to make an exception it’s insanely delicious
- You can find fruit everywhere during the day, but not usually in the evening
- A lot of street food restaurants have only one thing on their menu, so if you’re feeling brave you can just walk in and sit down, but there’s a 99% chance the food will contain bone broth
- If you can, ask for no fish sauce, but be aware of the language barrier
- Do a cooking class in Hoi An! There are several vegetarian restaurants offering them, and even one pure vegan one (which is expensive though). It’s definitely worth it.