Art of Oriental Plant-based Cuisine. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
The cultural context
Vietnam’s culture is heavily shaped by its most-followed religion, Buddhism, and the deep-rooted Confucianism beliefs. Therefore, it’s normal for Vietnamese, especially in the Central and Southern regions, to have two days per month of having plant-based food, at the beginning and in the middle of a lunar month. Local people view making and eating vegan food as the practice of cleansing the body and soul, which reduces the suffering for other species, and as a step to help them get closer to salvation.
Banana Blossom – a local rural ingredient. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
The energy elements in Vietnam vegan food
Yet, the approach of vegan eating in the Orient differs from in the West. In Western countries, people care more about the nutrition content of each ingredient, while in Asia, locals find balance in the energy of food combinations to nurture and heal the body. Yin & Yang energy of food are considered key to maintaining a balanced and healthy body, mind, and lifestyle. Hence, Asian people put a lot of efforts into the combination of the ingredients. The way of cooking is also monitored closely to ensure the tastiness of the dish and the individual’s health.
Crystal salad. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
Areas that offer the most famous Vietnam vegan food
This land is known as the land of the last royal dynasty in Vietnam. Hue culinary culture features the most delicate, well-prepared, and quality ingredients as it used to serve the highest men in power. Under the Nguyen dynasty’s reign, Buddhism in Vietnam thrived to its utmost glory. That’s why nowadays, so many local people still keep the Buddhist practice of their families and cherish the art of Vietnamese vegan food.
Lotus – the essence of Vietnam vegan cuisine. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
One cannot talk about Hue culinary without mentioning lotus. This land is famous all over the country with its lotus products, including flowers, leaves, seeds, seed buds, and roots. These lotus parts are used for making different kinds of food, tea, and natural remedies for many sicknesses. As the national flower, lotus is also the essence of Vietnam’s vegan food.
The vegan restaurants in Hue assure customers a peaceful vibe, close-to-nature space, and good quality of service. Sitting in the open gardens or the signature local design of Hue’s kingpost wooden houses, the zen energy and rustic feel are the kind of vibes you will feel here. Some of the finest restaurants that offer Vietnamese vegan food in this city are An Nhien Garden Vegetarian, Sân Mây, and Hoa Viên.
Ho Chi Minh City
As the biggest city of Vietnam, this city is a place of diversity and offers the most quality restaurants in the whole country. The open and dynamic nature of this place allows people to dig deep and explore plant-based eating in diverse innovative approaches, while still maintaining the national and oriental soul of the food.
Some of the most outstanding Vietnamese vegan restaurants are Hum Vegetarian, 4An Vegetarian, Here & Now Vegetarian, and Chay Garden Vegetarian.
Vietnam vegan meal set. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
The must-try Vietnamese vegan dishes
Pho and Bun Bo Hue are Vietnam’s special beef noodles that made their way into the world, so don’t miss out on their plant-based versions, vegan Bun Bo Hue and vegan Pho.
If you prefer adventure and want to try some of the country’s lesser-known noodle dishes, here’s a list of other vegan options for you to check off: vegan Bun Rieu (vegan Crab Paste Vermicelli Soup), vegan Hu Tieu, vegan My Quang, and vegan Bun Cha Gio (vegan Spring Roll Noodle).
Vegan bun in a street vendor. Photo by Huong Pham/Unsplash
In each region you visit in Vietnam, you will find different types of vegan noodles. While plant-based Bun Bo Hue and Pho can be found almost everywhere, vegan Bun Rieu might not be so popular in Central Vietnam, and Vegan My Quang is a local dish in Da Nang and Quang Nam province.
The food appears in all forms of presentations and price ranges. You can easily find a yummy bowl of noodles at a half to one dollar (about 20,000 VND) at local street food vendors. At the same time, you can also enjoy the same dish at doubled or tripled prices in a fine-dining vegan or vegetarian restaurant.
Vegan My Quang. Photo by Here & Now Vegetarian
In Hue, the most enjoyable thing about being a local is to go out early in the morning of the beginning and middle of a lunar month and find a new food vendor that serves veggie Bun Bo. During that time, many vendors changed their meat-based noodles into plant-based versions. Hue people cook incredible, hearty vegan soup that is unique and found nowhere else in the whole country.
Mushroom hot pot. Photo by Here & Now Vegetarian
Eating mushroom hot pot & burdock hot pot (ideally during wintertime) should be on your things-to-do list in Vietnam. The exceptional thing about the hot pot is the thoughtful combinations of nutritional sources and energies.
Once the broth of the dish is slowly cooked using vegetables and plant roots based on the seasonal availability, it is seasoned in simple yet unique local flavors. And unlike what you might expect, it has a distinct taste and smell to Chinese hot pots.
Burdock hot pot. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
While the mushroom hot pot is available in most vegetarian restaurants, burdock hot pot is only served in some fine-dining vegan restaurants in Vietnam. Burdock root is not commonly consumed, and only chefs who study Oriental cuisine extensively will use this ingredient for healing and treatment purposes. Combining burdock roots with suitable energy types of other ingredients is truly art and science at work.
The most popular plant-based rolls in Vietnam are rice paper rolls, green veggie wraps, and spring rolls. The simplicity and delicacy of these recipes make them popular even abroad. Although they are easy to make, the combination of various ingredients makes them perfect daily vitamin supplements. Vegan rolls are the perfect appetizer in tropical countries like Vietnam
Rice & Veggies rolls. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
Fresh local-ingredient salads – Banana blossom salad
The best Vietnamese vegan salads are banana blossom salad, pomelo salad, and crystal salad (made from aloe vera). Often served as appetizers, they are light and naturally crunchy in textures, pleasant with the flavors of fresh herbs.
Banana blossom salad. Photo by Here & Now Vegetarian
The most unique of all is the banana blossom salad. Due to the ingredients’ abundance (banana farming in the country is common), this dish has been near and dear to most Vietnamese for ages. Before the blossoms become bananas, people cut the big purple flower down, wash and cut them into small strips, then soak in salt water to reduce the acidity. Eventually, it is mixed with roasted peanuts and herbs and is enjoyed with a clear, delightful sauce, making it such a special dish.
Pomelo salad. Photo by An Nhien Garden Vegetarian
Mushroom & Lotus seed porridge
Porridge and soup are adored by all Vietnamese generations. People within the family love to share a big pot of hot porridge when the extreme weather of winter in the north and central regions comes around.
Mushroom porridge. Photo by Chay Garden
The protein content of mushrooms is a perfect meat substitute, and that’s why an earthy bowl of mushroom porridge can warm your stomach very nicely.
Considered to be the essence of vegan food in Vietnam, lotus seed porridge is the best gift of nature when the seed harvesting time begins (at the same time, autumn wind comes to the land). Full of nutrition and unmistakably pleasing aroma, this seed will make your culinary experience a memorable one.
Rice dishes – Brown rice in lotus leaf
Whether you want it or not, you just can’t skip the most important base of Vietnamese cuisine, rice. Rice is so delicious, enjoyable, and flavorful. And in Vietnam, people make rice the all-in-one dish that you need for the whole meal.
Brown rice in lotus leaf. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
Brown rice in lotus leaf and pineapple fried rice are the best two recipes for any rice-lover. If you want a whole grain, energy-balanced, and healthy version of rice, brown rice in lotus leaf will be a perfect choice. Enjoying this dish can take you a lot of time to chew, but your senses will be pleased every single moment of tasting it.
Pineapple fried rice is a creative take on the natural sweetness of fruit, mixing it with the creamy, starchy texture of rice and making it a burst in flavors.
Pineapple fried rice. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
Braised dishes – Braised baby jackfruit
Vietnamese will always have at least one dish on the table for a salty type of food as the hero of the meal. Because locals consume a lot of white rice, they need a strong flavor to match the rice’s plain flavor. In this case, the hero to save the meal is a braised dish.
Veggies with ‘Kho quet’. Photo by An Nhien Garden Vegetarian
Beside the popular braised tofu, one local Vietnamese vegan dish worth trying is braised baby jackfruit. Jackfruit trees are grown extensively everywhere in the country, which makes them available ingredients at almost any place and any time of the year.
Braised heart of palm. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
Initially, jackfruit is cut down green from the tree, its rind removed, and soaked immediately in salt water to prevent it from darkening. People will boil or steam the jackfruit before putting it into a thick ceramic pot for braising and further seasoning. The peculiar texture and natural sweetness of the fruit make this one of the must-try vegan dishes in Vietnam.
In addition, braised mushroom with pepper sweet sauce, braised heart of palm, and veggies with ‘kho quet’ sauce also harmonize perfectly with plain rice!
Braised baby jackfruit. Photo by Bep nha Beo
Dessert in Vietnam way – Longan & lotus seed sweet soup
Longan and lotus seed sweet soup, local-style banana cake with coconut milk, and mixed beans sweet soup are the top three for vegan dessert choices of Vietnamese locals.
Among those, longan & lotus seed sweet soup stands out as an ancient royal dish. Rich in Yin energy, this recipe helps balance out the Yang-energy meaty dishes that the king consumed. The Yin energy in lotus and longan also enhances the beauty of the female royal and helps keep up their natural femininity.
Longan and lotus seed sweet soup. Photo by Hum Vegetarian
Maybe it’s the perfect time to start creating Yin & Yang balance in your lifestyle. Visit our country to try delicate vegan food in Vietnam and learn how to make some for yourself.
Keyword: Best vegan food in Vietnam