Being a vegetarian, it’s always tricky when I travel to a new country when it comes to meals. Everybody in France kept saying that I wouldn’t have anything to eat in Vietnam, well well well… You couldn’t be more wrong!
There are plenty of alternatives and even a bunch of vegetarian or vegan restaurants. We once went to a restaurant attached to a buddhist temple were everything was supposed to be vegetarian. The fake meat was so good that Jean (a chef in France) couldn’t believe it was not actual meat. We walked out and he said “Ok, so killing animals is useless”.
Every time we were at a home stay they knew exactly what a vegetarian diet would allow.We never had to deal with the bullshit “but do you eat fiiiissshhh? and seafoooood? ah! then you’re vegan, and no we don’t have anything for you, get out dirty hippies!”.
A typical meal, complete with spring rolls (with omelette for us) to roll directly at the table, fried nems, sauteed veggies, tofu, lettuce, rice, rice noodles and meat.
Here is a list of the glorious deliciousness we enjoyed:
Served as an appetizer in a small local restaurant in the North, like the noodles, the rice gets its color from a fruit. It comes with coconut and tofu. Much prettier than tasty.
Com chay: kind of rice krispies to be eaten warm with some savory dip. Com chay also mean “vegetarian cuisine though”.
- The main courses:
The iconic Vietnamese sandwich, the banh my! That one was a gourmet version with greens, mushrooms and omelette.
Tofu in tomato sauce, or Đậu Hũ Sốt Cà Chua. Its name doesn’t do it justice, this is one of the tastiest dish I have had in Vietnam. This one in particular was cooked in a tiny restaurant in Cai Rong, we just asked the waitress / cook to bring us something vegetarian. She came back with that, it was so good that we came back craving for more the next day, like zombies.
A banana flower salad called Nộm hoa chuối.
It looks like vomit, I know, but it tastes like heaven! It’s tofu stuffed with a mixture of lotus stem.
A Cau Lau, special dish of Hoi An with thick noodles and rice crakers.
A banh xeoh, special dish from the South: rice flour pancake.
I don’t remember the name of this dish, but it was a vegan noodle soup with a banana flower salad.
Crispy noodles, fun but not easy to eat.
The small bananas on the left were the best I’ve ever had. We only found them in the North, close to the Chinese border, and then again in the South in Ho Chi Minh City. They were so amazing it kinda felt like they were mixed with a very light and delicate chocolate, they were sweet and tender.
Rambutans, like lychees but they look hairy. There is always a lot of longans too, the only difference is they look brownish and the seed is smaller.
The sweetest mangoes, beautiful but not extremely tasty dragon fruits (I love it anyway), watermelon and a root called cassava (the white one) that is a surprising mix of sweet and savory, always eaten as a fruit.
A fresh coconut to drink then eat.
A banana napoleon: the banana is caramelized and very lightly fried, and it comes with vanilla ice cream. Simple but absolutely delicious.
A donut mochi. It was good and fun.
Chè or literally sweet soup. One of the most popular street food apparently. I loved it even though it’s pretty weird, Marc Jaen hated it, Silvere thought it was ok but never tried a 2nd time, Jean liked it. Oanh said it was very typical but she admitted it was a little weird. It’s a kind of mixture of anything. Shaved ice, coconut milk with tapioca, sweet red beans, maybe fruits, lotus seeds, jelly, corn, peanuts etc… whatever can fit the glass I’d say!
Taro and apple pastries. They’re much sweeter than in France but very good.
The banana pancakes from our hotel in Ninh Binh… They were so huge and thick they were more like delicious cakes.
At Mango Story in Hanoi, they serve those crazy fruit toasts.
A coconut puff bought on the Hoi An night market. The outside is kinda plain, but the coconut flakes and jam inside are amazing!
Sugar cane juice with a few drops of a type of tiny green mandarin.
– Fruit juices can be bought everywhere and we had at least one or two every day.
– Vietnamese coffee is either very black and sweet, either mixed with condensed milk. They take it pretty seriously and it’s very high level coffee! Be careful though, one specific type of coffee is fermented in an animal body.
– Lots of matcha variations too.
– When we were in the family homestays in the North, they more or less forced us to drink homemade corn, artichoke and opium liquors. It was strong and from what I’ve seen, at least 2 or 3 small bottles have to be down before the end of the meal. Women are not always “allowed” to drink so they stopped serving me after I asked them to for the 5th time. Silvere and Jean could not escape the “happy water” that easily and had to drink a lot more than me!
- And of course and because no list of Asian food would be complete otherwise, the very weird stuff:
Liquors in a restaurant in the North, with hornets.
Snakes liquors in Ho Chi Minh City.
Two different types of big worms.
– They also eat dogs (thit cho), cats (thit meo), goats (thit ga), fox, turtles, grasshoppers etc… Which does not seem more foreign to me than eating a cow or a rabbit, but it seems most people find that very strange so I’m sharing the story with you.
Roach juice anyone?