If you are an Indian vegetarian travelling to Vietnam, finding veg food is not much of an issue. Indian restaurants are present in all the major destinations in Vietnam – be in Hanoi, Danang or Hoi An. However, it is not an easy task to have Vietnamese vegetarian food. There are 2 main reasons for this:
- Egg is considered vegetarian. Most of the veg dishes have egg in it; including fried rice and noodles.
- English is still not widely understood in Vietnam. Staff at many attractions and hotels in Vietnam understand and speak English; but if you expect the same in local eateries, you will be disappointed. Hopefully this will change soon with time!
We visited Hanoi, Halong Bay (Tuan Chau), Danang and Hoi An during our week long Vietnam trip and were able to manage pretty well with the available options.
Tips for veg food when travelling to Vietnam
Prebook in-flight meals: Your flight may be at a time that you need to order in the flight itself; or meals may be included in the flight. Make sure you mark your food preference as veg or order in advance. Sometimes veg food gets over earlier than expected and then you may have to order beverages or snacks. It is always advisable to prebook in case you have hard constraints.
Get advise at the hotel you are staying in: Most of the hotels will have receptionists that understand and speak English. Check with them about local vegetarian restaurants & local vegetarian dishes. We always request the receptionist to write a note for us in local language that says we are vegetarians (Make sure it says no meat, no fish, no egg, no fish sauce or oyster sauce). Fish sauce and oyster sauce are not commonly used ingredients in Vietnamese cuisine though. We show this note in local eateries to explain our food choices.
Get educated about common vegetarian dishes and their local names: Unlike Philippines where there is no word which means vegetarian, Vietnamese word for vegetarian is “chay”. So a kebab chay would be “veg kabab” (you will still need to ensure it does not have egg in it though :P)
Some of the dishes that you can find in Vietnam that have vegetarian versions too:
- Bahn Mi is a very popular and common dish in Vietnam that comes in vegetarian flavour too. It is basically a sandwich sub with minced meat or vegetables inside.
- Com Chay: Com is the Vietnamese word for rice. So com chay is veg rice.
- Mi Chay: Vegetarian noodles
- Chả giò chay: vegetarian spring rolls.
Talk to the staff / owner and see if they can make vegetarian dishes: Many restaurants in Vietnam do not have any veg dishes listed in their menu, but they are open to making one. Talk to the staff to see if they can customise some dishes for you. Dishes like spring rolls, noodles, stew etc can be made using only vegetables and many restaurants are ready to make them if requested.
Use Google Translate: We used Google translate extensively during our Vietnam trip. It was not only in restaurants to figure out what we were ordering, but also to communicate with taxi drivers and cyclo guys. Install Google on the phone that has net connectivity and you can let Google read out the translated text for better understanding.
Vegetarian restaurants in Hanoi
Hanoi has many Indian restaurants and some Vietnamese vegetarian restaurants too. The ones we tried are:
Namaste Hanoi: This Indian restaurant serves excellent food and is run by some amazing staff too! We went here for lunch and were so happy we went back for dinner, though it wasn’t close to our hotel Antique Legend. The owner of this place is an NRI settled in Canada who shuttles between Canada, Hanoi and Chennai. He takes personal interest in his partons and we found him interacting with almost every guest. The first time we ordered our regular roti, sabzi, dal, lassi etc. He suggested a few of his unique dishes for next time and we were glad we tried them. Some of the suggestions he made were:
- Nazakati Paneer
- Suva Tikki
- Bhindi Rajasthani
- Idly Podimas
- Chutney Aloo
- Vegetable Shaam Savera
- Paneer Bagh-e-Bahaar
- Palak Kofta
- Gulati Kofta
- Chicken Mashuka
- Chicken Angara
- Chicken Chettinad
Unfortunately, we dined only twice so could try only a few of these dishes. But they were mouth watering and I will highly recommend Namaste Hanoi to anyone who likes Indian food. My personal recommendation will be their Mango lassi and Mango juice.
They also deliver, in case you want to get it in your hotel itself. You can check their menu on http://www.namastehanoi.com/menus.html. Their delivery menu is available on http://www.namastehanoi.com/sites/default/files/namasteHanoiDeliveryMenu.pdf
Little India: Little India restaurant was just 100 mts away from Hanoi Antique Legend hotel and we dined there once. The food was average but they have good variety. You can see their menu on http://littleindiahanoi.com/menu/
Tandoor: Tandoor was around 500 mts from Hanoi Antique Legend hotel and very close to Thang Long water puppet show. The food was good too. Menu is available on http://tandoorvietnam.com/hanoi/menu
Some of the restaurants that we wanted to try but did not have enough time are:
- Khazaana 1992 Indian restaurant
- The Veg – Organic Vego & Tea
- Grills n Gravy Indian restaurant
- Minh Chay Vegan Restaurant
- Chay An Lạc 109 Trần Hưng Đạo Hà nội – This Vietnamese restaurant is very popular for its veg buffets. However, buffet closes at 1pm in the afternoon and it was closed by the time we reached.
I have marked all these restaurants on Google Maps for quick reference:
Vegetarian Restaurants in Tuan Chau:
We spent a day on Tuan Chau island after we finished our Halong Bay cruise. Food in the cruise was fantastic and Lavender cruise staff served excellent veg food to us. I had chicken and fish that were good too. Make sure you inform the cruise manager at the time of booking or before starting the cruise about your food preferences.
We were not so lucky with food at Tuan Chau though. The main problem there is communication. Very few people understand English in local restaurants. The staff at our hotel (Moon Bay) was in disbelief that we do not eat either egg or fish. She said they will not be able to serve anything pure vegetarian. However, she helped us order pizza (only Margarita was the veg option) from a nearby pizzeria.
One of the restaurants that we discovered next day had veg options and the food was good too. I can recommend Sandy bar that serves continental dishes and has magnificent view of the Tuan Chau beach.
Address: Sandy Bay Beach Bar & Restaurant – Nhà Hàng Vịnh Cát
Ngọc Châu, Tuần Châu, Tuan Chau Island, Quảng Ninh 200000, Vietnam
+84 899 269 000
They also deliver on the Tuan Chau island.
Vegetarian Restaurants in Hoi An:
Hoi An is extremely tourist friendly and it is quite easy to find veg options in this small town. There are some Indian restaurants too, in case you are specific about the cuisine.
The ones we tried were:
Streets restaurant cafe: Streets restaurant is run by an international non-profit which works with orphaned, trafficked and out-of-school kids. They train these kids in culinary skills, life skills and English and place them in cafes. You can read more about their work on https://www.streetsinternational.org/. The food here is fantastic and the kids are great. Their Com Chay was very good, though even the veg version comes with egg by default. You need to inform them that you do not eat egg.
Bahn Mi Queen: Madam Khanh – The Banh Mi Queen restaurant is known for the famous Bahn Mi. Madam Khanh is an 80+ lady who is famous for her mouth watering Bahn Mi. She has vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian versions. The cafe is mostly run by local ladies who are very warm and welcoming. I will highly recommend this place if you are looking for local flavour.
Some other restaurants that we would have tried if we had time:
- Baba’s kitchen restaurant
- Ganesh India restaurant
- Minh Hien vegetarian restaurant
- Quan Chay An Hy vegetarian restaurant
Overall, Vietnam has some good veg options. But one needs to do some research based on the destination to make the best of Vietnamese food 🙂
Have you been to Vietnam and have suggestion for our vegetarian readers? Do share in the comments!