In a society that largely has Buddhist roots, it is easy to be a vegetarian in Saigon. “Do an chay” (vegetarian food) can be found on nearly every street corner. More and more Saigonese are leaning towards eating more vegetarian dishes to help them temporarily forget about their daily woes.
New research has confirmed that certain vegetables are aiding in the fight against diseases and that being said, many vegetarian restaurants have been cropping up in line with these findings and are winning over the hearts of Saigon’s gourmands.
This one’s for all you vegetarians out there! (Also for open-minded and very cool regular people too). As you all know from the Colin-trivia sheet I sent you when you signed up (you got that, didn’t you?) I’m a VEGETARIAN. Vegetarian means that we only eat dry bags of kale and the occasional cantaloupe husk, on top of a healthy amount of sticks and whatever else we find in the storm drain.
So, I thought I’d extend the courtesy to my fellow grass-eating travelers out there, and give some insight into the best vegetarian in Saigon! Here are useful tips and suggestions for some of the most highly-rated vegetarian restaurants for readers.
1/ Hum Restaurant
Located on Vo Van Tan street, the restaurant’s name contains the word ‘Hum’ belonging to the popular Sanskrit mantra: ‘Om mani padme hum’, which symbolizes the jewel in the lotus. As such, the name reveals why the layout of Hum restaurant is decorated around a lotus theme.
Hum restaurant has succeeded in capturing the spirit of a traditional pagoda. Visitors are greeted by a zen, cozy space highlighted by a small pond brimming with colorful lotus blossoms.
Hum has now become the prime spot for those who love eating delicious vegetarian food. The restaurant guarantees the dishes are made with the freshest ingredients and cooked by only the most skilled chefs. That makes the flavor profile quite unique and impossible to replicate.
The restaurant guarantees the dishes are made with the freshest ingredients and cooked by only the most skilled chefs.
- Address: 32 Vo Van Tan Street, District 3
- Opening hours: 10 AM – 10 PM
- Website: http://humvietnam.vn/en/
- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/HumVegetarian.CafeRestaurant
2/ Pho Nhu Vegan
Pho is the symbolic dish of Vietnamese cuisine. But if you are a vegetarian wishing to sample this delicious bowl, the mainstays i.e. pho bo (beef) and pho ga (chicken), are not appropriate options. Fortunately, the vegetarian version of pho, called pho chay, is the perfect alternative. It would be remiss not to mention Pho Nhu Vegan when it comes to the locations serving the best bowls of pho chay in Saigon.
This is not a fancy space. Prices are not on the budget traveler’s side, but the place is almost always full thanks to the high quality of each dish served here. At Pho Nhu Vegan, the toppings are minimal so that the broth can stand out better. Hidden in each bowl of pho chay is a pretty complex broth, flavor-wise, due to the skillful combination of different types of mushrooms, the slight sweetness from the carrots, and the charming fragrance from the charred onion and ginger. Just a small note, this is not gluten-free.
However, if you are not a complete vegetarian, check out this list on where to find the best pho in town.
- Address: 54 Truong Quyen Street, District 3
- Opening hours: 6 AM – 10:30 PM
3/ Tib Vegetarian Restaurant
Known as one of the restaurants of the Tib chain, a popular restaurant operation selling Hue specialties, Tib Vegetarian occupies two floors and spots elegant and cozy décor. While the first floor is bedecked in a modern style, the second floor is laid out in typical Buddhist architecture. Outside is a romantic balcony where diners can eat their meal.
The balcony offers the best seat in the house as it doubles as a fantastic lookout when the sunset breaks over the cityscape. They also have a spacious dining area, which can host large groups of up to 20 people. If you have a chance, come and discover what treasures lay hidden in every corner of this amazing restaurant.
- Address: 89 – 91 Phan Ke Binh Street, District 1
- Opening hours: 7 AM – 10:30 PM
- Website: https://www.facebook.com/Tib-Vegetarian-Tib-Chay-76488586726/
4/ Man Tu Vegan
Nestled in the hustle and bustle of this rushing city, there is an oasis that greets its guests with open arms. It’s Man Tu Vegan. Located on the ground floor of a typical crumbling 100-year-old apartment building in the heart of Saigon, Man Tu Vegan does not look too inviting at first glance. However, we cannot judge a book by its cover.
During lunch, when the scorching heat seems to burn all the souls in this city up, you can take a couple hours for yourself to relax and enjoy a donation-based vegan buffet. Your choices are aplenty, ranging from appetizers, noodles, soups, types of rice, to desserts. The servers are also humble and considerate. Beware that lunch is a crowded time, and most customers are white-collar workers taking a break from their offices nearby.
If you prefer a private and silent space, come in the evening. It is then that you can contemplate the diversity of their menu, and enjoy the cleverness of their food arrangements on your dish. If this is your choice for dinner, do not miss their Hu tiu nam vang (Phnom-Penh style noodle) and Cha gio (deep-fried spring rolls).
- Address: 14/2 Ton That Dam Street, District 1
- Opening hours: 8 AM – 9 PM
- Website: https://www.facebook.com/mantuvegan/
5/ Ba Xa Vegan Restaurant
Vietnam is famous for its phở, bánh mì, cơm tấm, and tons of other unique foods you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Problem with those, is you’ll have a tough time finding vegetarian versions of any of them. No need to fear! I know all the good spots, and if you’re very nice, I’ll share them with you.
Hidden in an alley packed with small restaurants in District 1, Ba Xa Chay Restaurant welcomes its customers with a heartwarming ambiance and amazing dishes. “Ba xa” means “wife” and this restaurant will truly take care of your every hungry need.
At this restaurant, the menu covers a diversity of delicacies from West to East, and Vietnamese cuisine is the highlight.
- Address: 245/5 Nguyen Trai street, District 1, HCMC
- Opening hours: 8 AM – 10 PM (Closed on Monday)
- Website: https://www.facebook.com/LovingWifeVegan/
6. 3 La Vegan Restaurant
Cao Ba Nha street is a small alley in District 1, hence quiet and beautiful. In the middle of this little street, you’ll find 3 La Restaurant. A step inside is like a step into the Mekong Delta. Rattan decor and old photos set you at ease. Needless to say, you can enjoy amazing cuisine that you cannot find anywhere else but in Vietnam.
Do you prefer a Western taste? They do offer a few options, so there’s something for everyone.
- Address: 32A Cao Ba Nha, District 1, HCMC
- Opening hours: 8 AM – 10 PM
- Website: https://www.facebook.com/balachay/
7. Quan Chay Ms Cu
This is one of my secrets! It’s an authentic Vietnamese street restaurant. I’m so confident in it, that it’s where I take my Vietnamese friends looking for some real, cheap vegetarian food. People are very surprised in my ability to find such good cuisine (my greatest trick was always pretending I have abilities). Be prepared though, because it’s no 5-star atmosphere: it’s basically in an open garage, with bed sheets for walls. The floor is dirty, and you’ll eat at warped metal tables. But don’t they say the most modest places are the ones with the best food?
Menu: 20,000 – 35,000 VND
- Vegetarian noodle soup
- Vegetarian curry
- Fried wonton
- Hue vermicelli / spring roll vermicelli / vegetarian vermicelli
- Mixed rice
- Spring rolls / rolls
Order: Hoành thánh chiên (crispy fried dumplings)
Address: 18 Tran Dinh Xu, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
8. Veggie Saigon
Relocated to De Tham street, Veggie Saigon has become quite popular with Western vegetarians. It has the standard Vietnamese menu of items. It’s in the arena of many, many vegetarian places you’ll see around. (You can tell which, because they play the same loop of Buddhist music on repeat). Lots of traditional dishes, eccentric salads and soups. It gets crowded, and service can sometimes take a while.
However, it has a great veggie burger, tofu skin, and a mushroom banh mi (French bread sandwich) for only 1.50$!
Order: Spicy tofu skin, and veggie banh mi!
Address: 35 Nguyen Van Trang (1st Floor), District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Address 2: 42 De Tham, District.1, Ho Chi Minh City
9. BMC Saigon
My go-to in Ho Chi Minh! I absolutely crave their braised mushroom and tofu, curry, and braised tofu skins… Oh god I’m thinking about it right now. It’s about the same price as Veggie Saigon, and not as popular, but only because it’s harder to find. The cooks here must be particularly good, as I’ve never received so much as a poorly cooked bowl of rice (the same can’t be said for the previous place). The staff are great, and the owner is extremely friendly. So, so friendly. Dishes are about 2.50$ each, so I pay about 9$ for just myself (though I eat a lot of it). Seriously, go order “dau hu khi kho tieu” and thank me later.
Order: Dau hu khi kho tieu (braised tofu leaf) It’s the picture above!!
Mani is located outside the backpacker orbit, but it’s quite good. I haven’t been there often, but they have a great crab chowder and vegan roasted duck (I love fake animals). The owner is a nice guy, and they prepare the food very well. Tons of westerners live in D3, so it’s a safe bet for some refined Vietnamese vegetarian.
Order: Mushroom spring rolls
Address: 291/2 Vo Van Tan, Ward 5, District 3, HCM City
Street food suggestions
Vietnamese street food has undoubtedly, captured the hearts of many visitors but alas, almost every popular street food item has meat. However, if you are serious about exploring the more obscure, try to head out earlier in the morning or later at night. Then have a look to see what unknown items lurk in the baskets and carts of the everyday street vendor. You will definitely figure out that there are plenty of vegetarian items that can suit your dietary needs. Here is a couple of dishes that warrants a try:
Banh mi chay (vegetarian French baguette)
Traditionally, fish and meat make a banh mi filling. However, most vendors can make a meatless banh mi stuffed with a varied mix of fresh vegetables, cheese, and fried egg according to customer’s demands.
Banh mi vendors are everywhere and each stall has different fillings for customers to choose from. So just wander around and guaranteed you will run into a vendor selling banh mi chay. The rambling about will be worth your time and energy. But just in case you are too hungry to ramble around, there is a famous vegetarian banh mi vendor for you to go to. Below is the address, all you need to do is getting an Uber/Grab and then enjoy your banh mi chay:
- Banh mi Chay, 836 Nguyễn Trai, District 5 (vegetarian)
Xoi chay (Vegetarian sticky rice)
In Ho Chi Minh City, it is easy to stumble upon lovely ladies selling various kinds of colorful sticky rice. For locals, the scene of Vietnamese locals pulling up on the motorbikes and grabbing a takeaway box of sticky rice for their morning fare is quite familiar. Most of the vendors work early in the morning and pack up by 9 a.m. So if you want to try out this colorful sticky rice affair, you need to get up early. You serve Xoi Chay with chickpeas, sugar, roasted peanut, and shredded coconut, but sometimes the vendors will add some secret ingredients. A box of xoi chay costs between 10,000 to 20,000 VND.
Tips for newcomers
The most common issue vegetarian and vegan travelers usually face in Vietnam, – and most countries where English is not the mother tongue – is to explain that they want meatless dishes. As a useful tip, if you are looking for green food, try to look for the word ‘chay’. It means vegetarian in Vietnamese. If you see the word in the name of a restaurant, then that place serves only vegetarian food. In order to tell the seller you want to have the vegetarian version, all you need to do is to attach the word “chay” to the end of the name of the dish. For instance, when you want to order a bowl of vegetarian pho, you can say pho chay. Besides, to notify any vendor of your dietary habits, use this following phrase:
“Toi an chay”: “I’m vegetarian.”
Be wary that not all dishes have the vegetarian version. Sometimes, a dish may seem to have only vegetables but perhaps fish sauce or shrimp paste may have been an additional ingredient. However, all you have to do is ask the seller. Locals in Vietnam are very hospitable and will be willing to answer. Or sometimes, even make a special vegetarian version of the dish for you.
- Be wary of people saying they have vegetarian. Sometimes people are genuinely surprised when, by saying “vegetarian”, you can’t actually eat chicken (or seafood, or pork, or beef, etc.) “Cooked in chicken broth okay?”
- You can still get food poisoning from veggies. It almost never happens, but some places are just mom-and-pop stalls that are free from the inconvenience of health inspections.
- If you’re ever lost and need somewhere to eat, look for a temple! Buddhism is popular in Vietnam, and every district has a bunch of temples. Just look for the temple rooftop, and that neighborhood will have something vegetarian.
So you see, going vegetarian in Saigon is not a hard task. Hopefully this article helps you find a diverse array of food to eat during your stay. Let us know if you find any favorite dishes in any of these restaurants so we can add them to the recommendations.
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