Some Asian cuisines like Chinese, Thai, and Korean are traditionally based around the five taste “elements”: spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth). The Vietnamese cuisine has the same tradition. All of those five tastes are usually included in a single meal with the aim to create a balance. My explanation is because it stimulates all our taste buds the meal is coded in our brain as more interesting and therefore more delicious. I learnt about it many years ago and since then I try to incorporate this in all my meals I cook.
In the northern part of Vietnam you can still find a lot of traditional dishes like spring rolls and pho. The Vietnamese cuisine uses a lot of vegetables, fresh herbs and spices (e.g. Vietnamese mint, coriander, lemongrass, ginger, Saigon cinnamon, chilli, lime, basil leaves), soy sauce, and of course rice. So it is actually a great country to find delicious vegetarian and vegan food. Even soy products like tofu, tempeh or soy milk are very common in Asia. The use of meat was relatively limited in the past. Nowadays they usually only put a few pieces of meat in the soup or the noodles. If you are vegetarian or vegan be aware of added fish sauce and shrimp paste in non-vegetarian restaurants. In September 2018, the Hanoi People’s Committee urged the citizens to stop eating dog and cat meat as it can cause diseases like rabies and leptospirosis. Unfortunately, they still eat them and if you are the owner of a dog you have to watch out for guys on a motorcycle who kidnap them.
We ate a lot of kimchi. There are a lot of Korean people living in Vietnam. And we started to enjoy Hot pot. A Chinese cooking method prepared with a simmering pot of soup stock at the dining table, containing leaf vegetables, mushrooms, dumplings, and in our case tofu.
A meal in a restaurant is 80’000 – 200 ’000 VND.
A meal in a local restaurant* is 20’000 – 60’000 VND.
*Unfortunately, often contain palm oil and added sugar.
Besides eating in restaurants we bought most of our vegetables and fruits at the market from small local stores. Here some examples to have an idea (might vary depending on the season and city):
- peanut 1kg: 45’000 VND
- pistachio 1kg: 300’000-400’000 VND
- cashew 1kg: 350’000-400’000 VND
- oats 1kg: 80’000 VND
- avocado 1kg: 20’000-50’000 VND
- mango 1kg: 20’000-40’000 VND
- tomato 1kg: 12’000-20’000 VND
A young fresh coconut sold along the street: 15’000-20’000 VND
The tap water is not safe to drink. I recommend to carry a bottle that you can fill up from the filtered water at your accommodation, using a steripen or a water bottle that has an in-built filter.
Vietnamese – English
Lots of menus are not in English so I hope this helps.
- ăn chay: vegetarian
- thuần chay: vegan
- thịt: Meat (pork, beef, chicken, etc.)
- trứng: eggs
- hủ: tofu
- cơm: Rice
- mì: Wheat (often referring to wheat noodles)
- bánh mì: Baguette / Bread
- Gỏi cuốn: Fresh spring rolls
- ca phê: Coffee
Here some restaurants I worked together in Vietnam. As always, opinion and pictures are mine.
The Hanoi Social Club
The Hanoi Social Club has a lovely atmosphere, great music, and three floors. The top floor is a garden and my favourite. Yet, we decided to dine in the second floor since it was less hot. I made the mistake not to mention that I am vegan when I ordered the South American black bean plate with avocado and rice (125’000 VND). So I got it with crème fraiche. Looks nicer though 😉 They have a variety of food options. Chris ordered the Veggie Burger with a black bean, walnut and quinoa patty (130’000 VND). Both was delicious and one day we might come back for the vegan lasagne which wasn’t available that day.
Zeytun Restaurant Hoian
We are always excited when we find a Middle Eastern restaurant. It is one of our favourite cuisines. Lots of dishes like hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, and pita bread are vegan anyway without putting a label on it. The chef is Egyptian and the person who took care of us was super nice and happy to give us vegan recommendations. Only criticism is plastic straws. We also tried the Arabic Moussaka with steamed aubergine, tomatoes, and potatoes (79’000 VND). It was very filling, tasty, and we enjoyed our time in this restaurant very much.
Prem Bistro and Cafe, Saigon (vegetarian with vegan options)
Prem means love and I think they did an amazing job to show that in the food, the staff, and the beautiful interior design. When you enter the restaurant there is a peaceful garden on the left. On the right they created an amazing air conditioned room with one wall full of photos which the owners took themselves. You take off your shoes which gives me the feeling of being in somebody’s living room. The food was great, the presentation beautiful, and the staff very friendly. The general manager who took a lot of time for us told us the employees get free yoga classes. Love that the well-being of everybody is so important. A lot of the ingredients are homemade. We started with a stewed lentils and vegetables soup with carrots, capsicum, grilled mustard seeds and thyme leaves (55 VND). The Bowl of Prem contained boiled broccoli, butternut squash, falafel, caramelized onion, steamed rice, red hummus, avocado, dill, cherry tomatoes, horseradish, and homemade pickles (195 VND). The falafels were a bit dry for our taste but the rest was very delicious. Our favourite was the homemade Tempeh and rocket salad with sesame dressing (150 VND). This salad looks very simple but the combination was incredible. I think it is the best tempeh we ever ate. Highly recommended! Chris ordered the Beet root burger with chickpeas, sweet potato, and kale for the patty (165 VND). It wasn’t very special and probably a little but too dry as well. But we will forever remember the taste of those amazing smoothies. Especially the Avocado Matcha Smoothie with spinach, banana, soy milk, and a pinch of cinnamon (80 VND). The metal straw is a big plus 🙂
Other restaurants we ate at and I can highly recommend:
- Veggie Castle – Vegan Restaurant, Hà Nội
- Brew and Breakfast, Đà Lạt
- Vegetarian Restaurant & Vietnamese Tea Liên Hương, HCMC