Published On: Fri, Mar 9th, 2018

A vegan’s guide to Vietnam

Every vegan and vegetarian needs to add a visit to Vietnam to their bucket list. Not only is the food insanely cheap and delicious, but it’s surprisingly available throughout the entire country. Head for south-east Asia with Jenny Weller as your expert guide…

vegan vietnam

Vietnamese food is fabulously flavoured and, despite the language barrier, it is fairly easy to communicate vegetarian and vegan. This is due to the main religion being Buddhism, and on the first and fifteenth day of each month in the lunar cycle, Buddhists eat vegetarian food (An Chay). This can lead to restaurants being closed on these days if they don’t sell vegetarian food. As Buddhists eats vegetarian food twice a month, there are multiple local vegetarian restaurants throughout Vietnam that provide cheap and tasty food. Amongst the local eateries, there are also a number of higher-end vegetarian restaurants.

Another benefit of being vegan in Vietnam is that you are unlikely to be hit with the Vietnam equivalent of Delhi belly. In other words, you should be able to avoid the terrible stomach pains and the events that follow. From the south to the north, this foodie itinerary is perfect for any vegan beginning their journey to Vietnam. Our vegan journey begins in the south in Ho Chi Minh. The overwhelmingly busy city is filled with veggie food and is the perfect place to delve into the world of Vietnamese food.

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

Formerly known as Saigon, before being named after the leader Ho Chi Minh in 1976, the city has lots to offer in terms of food and culture. Located next to the backpacker area (near Pham Ngũ Lão street), Tiem Chay Dinh Y is a great locally run vegetarian restaurant serving a wide choice of dishes at budget prices. The majority of dishes are also vegan and smoothies and coffee can be available without milk, just ask. A large number of Vietnamese people speak fairly good English in the city, so communication shouldn’t be an issue.

vegan vietnam

Healthy Farm is like a vegan subway-style restaurant with noodles, vegetables and mock meats. You can choose exactly what goes into your meal and then it’s cooked fresh in front of you. Prices vary depending on how much you eat, but are very reasonable. The drinks are less value for money than the food.

Honorable mentions: 103 and Sen Vang

Mui Ne and Phan Tiet

Mui Ne is a seven-hour bus journey from Ho Chi Minh in south-east Vietnam. You can also get a taxi there or buy a motorbike and drive, reducing travel time to 4½ hours. The beach town is more tourist-orientated and is therefore not overflowing with vegan food.

vegan vietnam

The main area to visit is dedicated to backpackers and is filled with clubs and the area’s culinary favourite – fish. It’s a little more difficult to find veggie food in Mui Ne, but it is achievable.

Vi Dieu, a small vegetarian restaurant run by a Vietnamese woman who speaks little to no English, provides excellent food at good value. The menu is limited, but the quality of the food makes up for it.

vegan vietnam

El Café, which can be found in Dong Vui Square, is a small veggie spot in the food court. The potato salad is particularly great. The food takes a while to cook, but is worth the wait.

Mui Ne and Phan Tiet

Mui Ne is a seven-hour bus journey from Ho Chi Minh in south-east Vietnam. You can also get a taxi there or buy a motorbike and drive, reducing travel time to 4½ hours. The beach town is more tourist-orientated and is therefore not overflowing with vegan food. The main area to visit is dedicated to backpackers and is filled with clubs and the area’s culinary favourite – fish. It’s a little more difficult to find veggie food in Mui Ne, but it is achievable.

Vi Dieu, a small vegetarian restaurant run by a Vietnamese woman who speaks little to no English, provides excellent food at good value. The menu is limited, but the quality of the food makes up for it.

El Café, which can be found in Dong Vui Square, is a small veggie spot in the food court. The potato salad is particularly great. The food takes a while to cook, but is worth the wait.

About 20km from Mui Ne, in Phan Tiet, is Vien Chau, a fully vegetarian restaurant with incredible views of the mountains and river. It looks luxurious, but all the dishes are inexpensive, costing 25-30k Dong (£1). The menu is in Vietnamese (no English) but it’s easy to guess which meal is rice (com) or noodles (mi).

Dalat

From the coast, head inland to Dalat. The journey from Mui is breathtakingly beautiful. It will take you so much longer as you’ll want to stop all the time for the view. If you’re able to rent/buy a motorbike in Vietnam, you can stop when you want, rather than looking out of a bus window. Prepare to not sweat as you step off the bus into Dalat. It’s wonderful and you’ll never want to leave.

vegan vietnam

Combine the permanent cooling air with delicious food and Dalat is, well, perfect. Thien Duyen is a small vegetarian restaurant run by a small, lovely Vietnamese lady. The menu is limited, with only a few dishes and a small buffet of prepared foods. The food is delicious and cheap and the smiling face from the lady that runs the place really tops off the visit.

Lit Juice Bar and Café has a very London-esque feel to it. It’s a bit more expensive, but the juices are a nice treat. Try the ambarella, mango and pineapple juice – very refreshing.

Nha Trang

Again, the journey is so beautiful from Dalat to Nha Trang. A motorbike is the perfect way to see the countryside, but if you’re uneasy on a bike, sign up to Easy Rider and ride with a proficient driver. Nha Trang is mainly filled with seafood restaurants, bars and clubs but the real attraction lies at the bottom of the sea. The surrounding islands of Nha Trang are filled with tranquil ocean and beautiful coral reef.

vegan vietnam

City Fast Food, opposite the Wave bar, is a street food spot that sells delicious veggie burgers and hot dogs. All vegetarian options can be made vegan, just ask for no cheese or mayonnaise. Definitely worth the somewhat pricey 50k Dong (£1.70).

Despite serving nothing culturally relevant to Vietnam, Italian restaurant Olivia offers a lovely menu, which is all in English with vegetarian and vegan options available. It’s more expensive, so maybe not the best place if you’re on a budget.

vegan vietnam

Quy Nhon

Following the coast for roughly 4½ hours, you arrive at Quy Nhon. Located about 10km from the town of Quy Nhon is the delightful, tiny fishing village of Bai Xep. Right by the water, Life’s a Beach offers an immersive experience within the small village. With delightful accommodation ranging from affordable to higher end, the family dinner is what really brings this place together. At a more expensive 150k Dong (£5), the family dinner doesn’t disappoint. The vegetarian option presents a plethora of dishes, the majority of which are vegan.

Hoi An

About 290km from Quy Nhon, Hoi An is a beautiful, old and wonderfully lit place. Vegetarian spot, Minh Tinh 2, serves delicious vegan-friendly dishes, but be careful with the beverages, it will likely include milk, so ask for it without.

vegan vietnam

Here, you can experience the local speciality Cau Loa as well as the popular Vietnamese dish Pho. The dishes are moderately priced at around 50k Dong which is affordable, but not quite local prices.

Da Nang

Roughly a 40 minute drive from Hoi An, the city of Da Nang offers great foodie destinations. Vegan restaurant, Karma Waters, is located in both Da Nang and Hoi An. Its freshly made dishes use locally-sourced ingredients and omit MSG and sugar. They also produce gluten-free muffins and cakes in their bakery. Raw vegan dishes are available as well as cookery classes that run in the morning and afternoon.

Honourable mentions: Thuy, Ngog Chi, Lien Hoa

Dong Hoi

Between Da Nang and Dong Hoi is the Hai Van Pass (a popular destination thanks to Top Gear), it’s absolutely stunning and a must visit. Beachside Backpackers in Dong Hoi is a stone’s throw from the beach in Vietnam’s north central coast. The food and the view are equally matched and well worth a visit. Run by a lovely couple with an adorable dog, the kitchen offers a combination of western and Vietnamese food. The vegetarian Pho and homemade chips are particularly delectable. 

vegan vietnam

Cat Ba

An overnight train can take you from central Vietnam all the way to the north. After a bus, a boat and another bus you arrive at Cat Ba Island, the largest island in Halong Bay. Home to Woodstock Beach Camp, in a remote area with a private beach, the camp is a lovely getaway. The vegetarian family dinner is great and offers a combination of rice, noodles, vegetables, tofu and potato. Other veggie options from the kitchen are pizza, burgers and noodles. All dishes can be made vegan and the place itself is a popular destination for volunteers. 

Hanoi

The roughly 2 hour journey from Cat Ba Island to Hanoi is quick. The bustling city is filled with beautiful old buildings, culture and history. Noodle & Roll is a great spot offering noodle dishes and Vietnamese curries. In general, Hanoi is much more expensive for everything, so expect to pay more even at local eateries.

vegan vietnam

To finish your Vietnam journey, a visit to the entirely Harry Potter themed cafe, Always Café is needed. Roughly 1,400km later and the journey from south to north is complete. Grab yourself a butter beer and start planning your next trip!

Speak like a Vietnamese person

Vietnamese isn’t the easiest language to master but they’ll definitely appreciate you trying out some of the following phrases…

  • Hello – Xin chào (sin chow)
  • Thank you – cam on
  • Vegetarian – Chay
  • No egg – không có trúng
  • No milk – không có sũa
  • Do you have vegetarian food? – Co Do Chay Khong A? / Koo Dou Chai Khoong Aa?
  • No meat – Khong Thit / Khoong Theet
  • No fish – Khong Ca / Khoong Ka

Jenny Weller

Jenny loves to travel and eat food, not necessarily in that order. She decided to start Plant-Based Travellers, a blog dedicated to vegan travel, after struggling to find vegan eateries everywhere she went on her travels, which included Thailand and Vietnam. Follow Jenny at: www.plantbasedtravellers.com

Instagram: @plantbasedtravellers

Twitter: @PlantBasedT

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