Vegan in Vietnam: Why It's Different (and better) Than Most Countries
Simply put, we love food. We have been having a blast travelling the world and tasting the different cuisines of each country, all while maintaining a vegan diet. Before heading to Vietnam, Vic and I thought it would be the most difficult country for us to find vegan fare. Our minimal knowledge of Vietnamese food sparked nightmares of fish sauce and beef broth, and we were actually considering skipping Vietnam for this reason. Thank god we didn't, because boy were we ever wrong.
Finding a vegan restaurant in Vietnam is incredibly easy. We travelled to four destinations over two weeks, and every meal was enjoyed at an all vegan restaurant. You'll find yourself walking down a road and counting the number of quan chay (vegan in Vietnamese) signs you see. The main difference between these restaurants and others we have come across during our travels are that their primary customers are locals. Quan chay restaurants are seriously no-frills, are frequented by Buddhist monks, and are certainly a far cry from the modern, fancy vegan restaurants and cafes in European cities we were used to.
The food is simple, tasty, and best of all...cheap. A common dish we would order is com dia (rice of the day), which comes with rice and the day's assortment of steamed veggies, mock meat, and usually tofu. These usually go for 15k-25k dong ($0.70-$1.16).
Also popular at quan chay places are different soups, ranging from your typical pho to the
flavourful Bun Bo Hue - veg beef, pineapple, tofu, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and herbs in a spicy broth. These usually cost 15k-35k dong.
In Hoi An, we found a great quan chay restaurant: Quan Chay Dam Co Dam. Here you can put as much food
and you can fit on your plate with selections from their buffet (tofu, seitan, veg chicken, veg
beef, tofu spring rolls, rice noodles, rice, steamed greens, fried veggies, etc.) for only 40k dong ($1.87).
The point to be made here is fear not, vegan travellers! Vietnam turned out to be a vegan oasis of cheap, simple food. Just go into the country with an open mind; prepare yourself to try some interesting looking mock meats, share a table with a vegetarian Buddhist monk, and disregard Western standards of kitchen prep hygiene - then you're bound to have as good a time as we did.