Traveling when you’re a vegan or vegetarian can be difficult. Add a language barrier, and this only heightens the complexity of navigating any dietary requirements. It might surprise you to know that Vietnam is actually a herbivore hot spot! In fact, Saigon has been called out as one of the Top Cities for Vegetarians in the World.
Help! I’m vegetarian!
No meat? No worries!
Asian cuisines, in general, are vastly different to the meat-centric dinner plates of the West.
Meals are typically centered around noodles or rice, bulked with veggies, and garnished with meat. It is thanks to this equation, that no meat is usually no problem! If you’re out and about, restaurants are typically happy to cater to this.
The phrase “Toi an chay” means “I’m vegetarian” – just note that if you’re strict, avoiding fish sauce might be more difficult. In this case, “khong nuoc mam” means no fish sauce.
We suggest you write these down.
How common is vegetarianism in Vietnam?
Vegetarianism has always played a huge role in Asian culture due to the historical affiliation with Buddhism. It is said that approximately 85% of Vietnamese identify as Buddhists. As per the practice, many Vietnamese will abstain from the consumption of meat over the first and fifteenth days of the lunar month. As a result, it is surprisingly easy to find vegetarian fare no matter where you are in the country.
In Saigon and throughout the bigger cities especially, many Vietnamese are becoming more and more concerned about their food choices. It’s increasingly common for people to voluntarily adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. Many turn to vegetarianism for health, ethical, and environmental reasons.
The rise of these lifestyle choices has been a major driver behind the boom of vegetarian fine dining. In Saigon, you’ll find that vegetarians are spoilt for choice!
Does no meat mean no flavor?
Objectively… from the perspective of both omnivores and herbivores, the vegetarian we’ve experienced in Saigon is exceptional. We’ve tried all kinds, from dishes made with faux meat, to those that substitute the otherwise meaty component with plant-based replacements. We love Vietnamese cuisine for its colorful use of fresh herbs, spices and how these come together to create that unique and zesty flavor profile.
Even if you’re not vegetarian, this is a trick that we find very helpful for when we’re hosting visitors. If you have friends and family visiting Vietnam, going vegetarian is a great way to introduce local dishes that they may otherwise not stomach. While nose to tail eating is common across Asia, in the West it tends not to be the done thing. Not everyone will enjoy the ligaments in a bowl of bun bo hue, and the offal of pha lau is sure to turn some noses. However, that doesn’t mean anyone should miss out. Our solution to this is to have them try the vegetarian versions of these so that your visitors can still appreciate the flavors and textures without fear of chewing through stomach and livers. Win!
Is vegetarian food cheap?
In general, food in Vietnam is inexpensive. In Saigon, vegetarian meals tend to be priced roughly the same as meals with meat.
As a general guideline, side street stall prices range from US$0.50 – US$1.00.
If you head to a local restaurant, expect to pay from US$1.00 – US$1.50.
There are more and more vegetarian fine dining options cropping up around the city, with Hum often referenced as a crowd favorite. As with all fine dining joints, expect prices here to sit a little higher.
Where are our vegetarian favorites?
Without further ado, here’s a list of some of our favorites around the city!
If you’re going to be traveling around, make sure you check out this list for even more ideas for places in Hanoi.
And below, are the list for places in Ho Chi Minh city.
1. Thực dưỡng Khai Minh – Bình Thạnh
2. Bồ Đề Tịnh Tâm — 160 Trần Não, District 2
3. Chay – D1 (Bình Thạnh)
4. Cơm Chay Diệu Giác — 6/10 Trần Não, District 2
5. Nhà Hàng Chay Thiện Duyên — 505 Xa Lộ Hà Nội, An Phú, District 2
6. Ẩm Thực Chay Hoa Thiên — 27 Nguyễn Quý Đức, An Phú, District 2
7. Om Restaurant — 215 Nguyễn Văn Hương, Thảo Điền, District 2
8. Loving Hut (Hoa Đăng) — 38 Huỳnh Khương Ninh, District 1
We reckon these are a good place to start in creating a solid foundation of your vegetarian repertoire!