“You can’t really eat the pho here if you’re vegetarian. You can ask to have the meat taken out but it’s the base for the broth too.”
Not really what I wanted to hear at the beginning of a month long stay in Vietnam. I know you often need to alter your expectations whilst travelling but as a self confessed, long-term strict veggie, eating meat broth is just not something that I would choose to consider and I had definitely been looking forward to trying pho!
I was grateful for the information though and my fellow veggie traveller didn’t just tell me what to avoid. She also ended up giving me loads of tips on places I could get veggie food.
Turns out it’s not so hard to eat vegetarian in Vietnam. Here are the best options I found as a veggie:
- Vegetarian/Vegan Cafes and Restaurants – After being confined to one page of the menu for so long, Veggie or Vegan restaurants can feel amazing, wherever you are! In Hanoi I was lucky to find a few, most notably Minh Chay and Om Hanoi: Yoga & Cafe (Former Zenith Yoga II). These places had some tasty dishes although they could stretch your budget slightly. If you can find a local Buddhist restaurant this is also a great way to enjoy a variety of meat free dishes at local prices. Most of the great veggie places I learned about here in Vietnam were from word of mouth. In Hanoi, there was the girl in my hostel and I also find that the hostel staff can often help. Failing that, you can try searching the internet or Happy Cow. Sometimes places can be a little further afield but as a special treat, I found that it was completely worth the walk.
- Restaurants with Vegetarian Menus – I found that most restaurants with menus have a vegetarian section or at least a few options with vegetables and tofu. Some restaurants will provide a completely separate vegetarian menu. Eating in restaurants might cause you to spend a bit more money but for ease and peace of mind, it is a great option.
- Request Veggie or Vegan Food – After hearing about the potential difficulties with eating veggie in Vietnam, I realised I needed a way to communicate clearly when ordering food. If the language barrier is an issue and you want to eat somewhere where a veggie menu doesn’t exist, try showing the restaurant a short note in Vietnamese. I asked one of the staff members at my hostel to do this for me and they simply wrote that I couldn’t eat meat, fish or fish sauce but that egg was okay. This note has become my safety net when ordering food here in Vietnam.
- Try the Food Markets – In Hoi An we were lucky enough to find out about the food market at the end of the old town. This market sells freshly cooked Vietnamese food for a fraction of what you pay in a restaurant and served some of the most delicious veggie food I have tasted!
I am now three weeks into my time here in Vietnam and I will update my posts with future veggie finds!