Vietnamese is one of my favorite cuisines. Going vegetarian in Vietnam takes a bit of effort but your efforts will be rewarded with extreme deliciousness.
- First up – yes you can eat the salad. The giant handfuls of lettuce and herbs that are served with meals in Vietnam are one of the best parts of traveling there. It helps you feel healthy during your trip rather than feeling like you’re eating fried stuff all the time. I’ve never had a problem with getting sick there. Of course, make your own decision!
- If you drink cow’s milk you can get iced coffee make with condensed milk. There are lots of great cafes in Vietnam and Vietnamese people love to hang out at cafes, linger, and drink this super sweet coffee. Search around the blogs to find the best cafes in the cities and towns you’re going to and plan some lingering time. Saigon in particular has an incredible cafe scene. With or without condensed milk, Vietnamese coffee is delicious. If you’re staying at a boutiquey type guesthouse, they may even provide guest kitchen with coffee pot and coffee so you can make your own on the stovetop.
- Get good directions.
Finding restaurants can be difficult. Take good directions, ideally written down in Vienatmese, and visualize where you’re going using a map. Allow time for getting lost or walking past the place three times before figuring it out. Happy cow list.
- Beware the baguette.
Vietnamese baguettes are like crack. They’re hot, cheap, and everywhere. I can and did scarf almost a full loaf a day in Vietnam. Not good for the waistline or the the.. ahem… bowels. TMI I know but constipation is a common travel issue virtually no one talks about. Vietnamese baguettes are even better than French baguettes, in my opinion, so do indulge but maybe not everyday. It’s impossible to stop eating them once you’ve started so they’re best shared.
- Prepare for mock meat.
I don’t generally like mock meat or fish. Most dishes at Buddhist restaurants are designed to mimic their non-vegetarian counterparts. If you’re like me and not into this, your options in Vietnamese vegetarian restaurants will be a bit more limited. People will want to please you, so you can ask for a special order. Spring rolls are always good!
- Shop the market.
I make fresh Spring rolls all the time at home, but making them in Vietnam is even better because of the fresh ingredients and especially the aforementioned herbs and lettuces. Even if you don’t have kitchen access, all you need is an electric jug to boil water. Spring roll wrappers are just submerged in hot water for a few seconds. You’ll be able to buy pre-fried tofu. Ideally you would also have an in room fridge to store your leftover ingredients. All but the very cheapest guesthouses will have a fridge.
- Talk to any Vietnamese friends about being vegetarian.
It’s honorable to be vegetarian in Buddhist cultures so saying your vegetarian will generally go down well with any Vietnamese friends you make. They’ll often be keen to help you find suitable food and may go way out of their way to help you, e.g., insist on taking you to a vegetarian restaurant or the supermarket on their motorbike so that you can buy what you need, despite the fact you could’ve just taken a motorbike taxi for next to nothing.