A Survival Guide for Vegetarians in Vietnam

by Khushboo Patodia

Enough and more has been written about body-shaming! What’s not been given enough importance is the vegetarian-shaming that every vegetarian inadvertently has to go through. Coz if you’re not a meat-eater, then your only option is ‘ghaas-phoos’ right?


Here’s my story about how I survived my trip to Vietnam – a country that serves beef and pork on the street – with a satiated tummy and happy memories.

Step 1: Plan Ahead

“Yes, I’m vegetarian. No, I don’t only eat vegetables”

Do your research and do it well. When my husband and I were looking up Vietnam and its culinary journey, we came across a meat fiesta. Unfortunately, this was one fiesta we knew we’d have to skip. In preparation for our trip we carried plenty of ready-to-eat packs of food from Wai Wai noodles to cakes, biscuits, energy bars and what have you.

Our trip from India to Kuala Lumpur was uneventful, thanks to the vegetarian meals that were served but the real adventure began was we landed in KL. All we ate in our flight from KL to Hanoi was the side of peanuts. It came along with the non-veg meal that was served on board. Needless to say that we got off our flight absolutely famished. That’s when all those noodles and knick-knacks came handy.

Step 2: Persistence

“I don’t eat anything that poops”

When the husband and I finally took to the streets of Hanoi, we were immediately lost in its old world charm. We walked ourselves to the Old Quarter Area and looked at all the stalls. Menu card after menu card and not a single vegetarian dish was available. I walked quite a distance and that’s when I realized that ‘hungry’ should be categorized as an emotion because I was feeling it to the depths of my soul.

We finally stumbled upon a tiny place that serves Pho. If you haven’t watched Kung Fu Panda, then here’s a quick lesson. Pho is a Vietnamese soup that’s filled with vegetables and noodles and while chicken pho and beef pho are probably the most popular variants, we were lucky enough to be served vegetable pho.

Veg Pho

Veg Pho

Tip: If you don’t get vegetarian pho anywhere try the chicken pho and just drink the stock since it tastes just like veg pho. It is just as nutritious and leaves you feeling energized.

Step 3: Variety

“Variety is the spice of vegetarian life”

Now I know what you’re thinking, probably how much pho can one person have? Well, it turns out not a lot. So that’s when the man in my life and I set out to explore a few more options. The Vietnamese eat a lot of rice and offer plenty of variants. The garlic fried rice was quite nice although it was a little difficult to find gravy with it. Your best bet would be a bit of soy sauce.

Garlic Fried Rice with Soya Sauce | Photo Courtesy: The Foto Concierge

Garlic Fried Rice with Soya Sauce | Photo Courtesy: The Foto Concierge

The highlight of my trip was the fried lotus stems that we ordered at a boutique restaurant in Hanoi. It was so full of flavor and the kind of food you keep dreaming of, long after you’re done eating it.

Fried lotus stems | Photo Courtesy: The Foto Concierge

Fried lotus stems | Photo Courtesy: The Foto Concierge

Look out for places that serve Italian or American food.  The pizzas and pastas are quite delicious .You’ll find quite a few restaurants in DaNang and Hoi An in the main market area. Margherita pizza for the win. We even found a tiny place that served us veg pasta.

We learnt in this trip was that if we look hard enough we’re destined to get vegetarian food somewhere.

Step 4: Go Local

“Shop small mart not Walmart”

Vietnam is famous for its fresh fruits and local produce consequently it is a tropical paradise filled with mangoes, dragon fruits, apples and jackfruits.

Vegetarian Drangon Fruit Vietnam

Dragon Fruit | Photo Courtesy: The Foto Concierge

Infact fruits are abundant here. There’s nothing like a glass of mango juice or a fruit smoothie on a hot day since they’re absolutely delicious. My favourite one being the one with passion fruit. I strongly suggest you indulge in the local produce for the duration of your trip

Fruit sellers walk around like this selling fruits, Vegetarian

Fruit sellers walk around like this selling fruits | Photo Courtesy: The Foto Concierge

To conclude, all I can say is that one’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things. Furthermore the culinary journey through Vietnam is filled with plenty of excitement, drama and lots of local cuisine . Hoping yours will be too.

How we eat is how we live. How we do anything is how we do everything.

Tam biet, Everyone.

Oh! and do let us know what vegetarian options you had while you were in Vietnam in the comments section below.

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