With culinary travel becoming increasingly popular and Vietnamese people’s growing acceptance of vegan food/vegan diet for health reasons, it is now safe to say that you can survive being a vegan in Vietnam. Below is my little guide of best vegan places in Vietnam after visiting it three times and end up staying for 2 years. Let’s start with some survival tips:
3 Travel Survival Tips For a Vegan in Vietnam
How to order vegan food
There is one magic word you need to remember: “chay”. To tell people you want to eat vegan food, do this: point to yourself to indicate that you are talking about yourself (I), then say “ăn” = /ən/ as in unbreakable (which mean “eat” in Vietnamese) and end with “chay”.
The formula: I eat vegan food = /I (with finger pointing to yourself)/ + /ən/ + /chay/ .
Mind you, the intonation here is very, very important. You need to say all there words flatly and evenly. Any rising or falling in intonation can mean something else in Vietnamese language (for example, a rising intonation with /chay/ mean fire there). Imagine that you speak in a robot-like voice and you will be ok. Write down the following words and show the waiters if you are still not sure about your intonation: “Tôi ăn chay”. If they shake their heads, it is safe to leave without ordering anything.
Another important note: maybe you learn how to say “without meat” in Vietnamese and try telling local people that. But don’t be surprised if you end up eating dishes with meat-based broths and fish sauces (more on that later).
Where to find vegan food
- Local vegan eateries/restaurants
It is not so hard to find local vegetarian eateries or high-end restaurants vegetarian in big cities of Vietnam. You can use Happycow application or search restaurants that serve vegan foods on Trip Advisors (make sure to check our reviews, though). Or simply look at eateries with the word “chay” on their signs, especially those nearly pagodas. If you come to Vietnam on the first and fifteenth of the month, you may see a lot of people eating at Buddhist vegetarian restaurants.
To be honest, vegetarian food is everywhere in Vietnam, even there is no word “chay” in the menu. Being a strict vegetarian myself, I was able to sample quite many purely vegan dishes in this country. In many eateries where you don’t see vegan foods in their menu, just ask for a vegetarian version and they may make it for you.
- Street stalls
Surprisingly, I found plenty of vegan dishes and drink at Vietnamese street food stalls. The best vegan foods may actually come for these stalls rather than high-end restaurants. But to limit the possibilities of diarrhea or bad tasting experience, I highly recommend joining at least a local food tour where you get to sample great vegan food and learn Vietnamese culture at the same time. Here are some popular options: Hanoi Street Food Tour, Saigon Street Food by Night, and Night Food Tour with Small Group in Hoi An. Make sure you communicate well with your local tour guide about your eating preference.
- Tourist restaurants
At travel destinations with many Western tourists, you will certainly find vegan eateries without any trouble. If anything else fails, you can always depend on “vegan banh mi” to fill your stomach (and it is incredibly cheap).
The second time being in Vietnam, I went to Halong Bay – it is one of the most-visited destinations in Vietnam and for good reasons: the scenery is simply breathtaking. That time, I booked a 2 night 1 day cruise to enjoy all the view of the islands and islets and attractions rather than just a one-day boat tour. As I did my homework, I found out at only several reputable cruise lines in Halong Bay like Au Co cruise or Bhaya cruise could accommodate strictly vegan food. Indeed, the staff at Bhaya cruise was very attentive to my food preference and I got to eat several great dishes. I also learned how to make vegan spring roll on the cruise.
Be aware of fish sauce and MSG products
Fish sauce is used everywhere in Vietnam. Even if there is no fish sauce in your dishes, you will most likely find it in the dipping sauce. Fish sauce is an important ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, it make normal blatant dishes come alive. So, if you can live with that, you can sample many more Vietnamese dishes. And if you are a strictly vegan, remember to double check with your restaurants not put fish sauce in your dishes. Soy sauce can be used as substitute, though it doesn’t taste as good.
MSG products are also popular in Vietnam and many people think of milk and even honey as purely vegan ingredients. So try to let people know your vegan options clearly or leave out dessert dishes/smoothies that seem to have such ingredients.
Restaurants in Vietnam
Truthfully, I have been to only several main cities of Vietnam so it is not a thorough guide by all means. Let me know if you ever tasted great Vietnamese vegan food in any other eatery in the comment section.
Vegan places in Hanoi
My favorite vegan places in Hanoi are actually street food stalls during the Hanoi Street Food Tour. Many vegan restaurants in Hanoi go very heavy on mock meat dishes so they are not really my style. Here are my personal favourites:
- THE HANOI SOCIAL CLUB
Address: No 6 Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
If you look for a nice vegan place to work, eat and drink, try this cozy place. I didn’t expect great quality and various options of vegetarian food here: in fact I was there at first just to order a quick drink and a side salad but then I kept come back here for several more times. You should try: veggie roti, curry, chickpea and broccoli quinoa salad, they are my jams. I really like the friendly staff, soft music, and relaxed atmosphere (though a little bit dim at night).
- AUBERGINE CAFE
Address: 16 Hang Be, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
My hotel was very near this cafe so I decided to check it out. Lucky for me because it is a must-try place for vegan. Papaya salad and salted Aubergine with garlic were beyond good. Other recommended dishes are veggie spring rolls, Papaya salad, and eggplant with sesame. Do not skip the cold beer there. Very good food with cheap price, good service so I have no complaint at all.
Vegan places in Saigon
- PHO NHU CHAY
Address: 54 Truong Quyen St, Ward 6, District 3, HCM City
This place is actually quite difficult to locate. It is a small eating place in an alley with only one staff that can speak a little bit of English. Except for yogurt, all other dishes like Vietnamese pho and rice are made for vegetarians (even the sauce). I love the broth there: so rich and flavorful. There are lots of fresh herbs, veggies, and mushrooms in a very big bowl. Very high quality food at such a cheap price, though presentation is just so so. I know that PHO 2000 at District 1 is often recommended for travellers but this place has way better food.
- BONG SUNG VEGETARIAN FOOD AND COFFEE
Address: 86 Nguyen Du, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCM City
Bong Sung restaurant offers lots of vegan options: you will probably be at a loss of what to choose. I asked the staff there to explain the ingredients in some dishes: they spoke English well and were very helpful. The place actually looked quite cozy. I tried pineapple rice, oyster mushrooms, tofu and some spring rolls; all tasted very nice. The place was quite crowded by the time I got there so it was probably why my dishes came out a little slow. I noticed several dishes with milk; make sure you ask the waitress to leave it out. Overall, much better experience and fairer price than high-end places like Hum Vegetarian Restaurant.
- KHAI MINH RESTAURANT
Address: 157 Dien Bien Phu, District 15, Binh Thach, HCM City
That small, traditional cafe-style restaurant offers various types of vegan food at very reasonable price. I got a menu in English with detailed descriptions of dishes so I didn’t have to ask the waitress a lot. The first dish was a little sweet for my taste so I request the cook to reduce the amount of sugar in other dishes: the result was excellent. I love the light taste; it seemed that no MSG was put in the food. Surprisingly, there are no mock meat dishes here like in most other vegan places. You also can find some packed vegan products with a quality control label and cook book for sale. The atmosphere is quite amicable. Finding a food packer with a proper quality control label is quite important since if you know how much is a quality control label you can understand the amount of money and effort the food company is spending on the package and safely infer that the nutritional facts of the package are right.
Vegan places in Hoi An
I have trouble ranking my favorite vegan places in Hoi An because I only came there briefly. I did try the two highly recommended places, though: Quan Chay An Nhu (in a small alley, No. 71/20, Phan Chu Trinh Street) and Quan Chay Dam (No 516 Hai Ba Trung, Hoi An). Both offer quite nice vegan foods at incredibly cheap prices.
Vegan places in Hue
- SAN MAY RESTAURANT
Address: No 8 Thanh Tinh, Hue
I got to taste vegan food in a very old Vietnamese traditional house surrounded by a nice garden. Naturally, it adds to the price but I really love the peaceful atmosphere and the setting in this restaurant. I highly recommended vegan spring roll, pho, and fruit dishes. Fermented soy curd tastes heavenly. The menu is in both Vietnamese and English.
- THANH LIEU
Address: 50 Nguyen Cong Tru, Hue, Vietnam
I love hotpot and it is actually a specialty of Thanh Lieu so I went there every time I visit Hue. Do not expect any English menu in this tiny local place; however, there are only several main dishes so you do not have to ask the staff. Even now I still miss the savoury flavour of cheap hot pot served there. “Banh loc” (rice cake wrapped in leaves) is also must-try. The setting is simple and the place is always packed with customers but foods are served very quickly.
Recommended Hotels in Vietnam
There are many sites for apartment rentals in Vietnam, with AirBnB probably being one of the most popular. Prices are generally comparable to budget hotels, especially if you’re willing to get a room in a shared apartment. Book AirBnB →
Special Offer!Sign up with AirBnB and you can receive a free $40 credit to use on your first booking!
There you have my little guide of best vegan places I have ever been to in Vietnam; hopefully it will be helpful for your taste buds.
Anna Lee is a travel blogger and a wanderer, who loves the freedom that comes along with living out of her suitcase. She has been to many Asian countries such as China, Indonesia, Singapore and currently she is staying in Vietnam. You can read her adventures in Asia at her blog.