If you have dietary restrictions, sometimes it is frustrating to eat local food while traveling. Here in Vietnam, it may be a little easier than you think with just a few phrases and a few addresses at hand.
Traveling with dietary requirements in Saigon may seem tough. On the one hand, it is difficult to find a restaurant in common tourist attraction areas with a satisfying dish that fits your diet. On the other hand, there are so many types of local food that might fall into your dietary menu, however, neither you nor the seller know! This article is designed to support you with insight into how to maximize the value of your trip with food that fits your needs. I will cover several types of diets including vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, and gluten-free.
Eating in Saigon – Veggie, Halal, Kosher, or Gluten-Free
It is actually easy for vegetarians to navigate the maze of the Saigon food market. The simplest way is to order a bread/ rice combo with egg, and say this (or type this into your phone and show the seller): “Toi an chay”.
Stay tuned, some sellers can make you a vegetarian one on demand (just tell them you want egg only, no shrimp, no meat). It’s truly worth a try and you don’t sacrifice local taste!
Most local small veggie restaurants are actually vegan restaurants, while more professional restaurants do provide cheese, egg, and non-vegan options.
Take a look at my selection:
Hum Vegetarian: known as one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City, Hum provides you not only beautiful dishes but also a charming space to enjoy your meal.
- 1. 32 Vo Van Tan Str, Dst. 3, HCMC.
- 2. 02 Thi Sach Str, Dst. 1, HCMC.
- 3. 32, D10 Str, Thao Dien Ward, Dst. 2, HCMC.
- Opening Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM
- Website: https://humvietnam.vn/
- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/Hum.Vietnam
Mandala Vegetarian: Located nearby one of the most hotel-packed streets of Ho Chi Minh City, Mandala Vegetarian provides good veggies with a quiet, Tibetan space. The restaurant also has two small meditation rooms and two VIP rooms for special demand. This is the best vegetarian option in this area.
- Address: 110 Suong Nguyet Anh Str, Dst. 1, HCMC.
- Opening Hours: 9 AM – 9 PM
- Fanpage: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293925-d4281785-Reviews-Mandala-Ho_Chi_Minh_City.html
Bong Sung Vegetarian Food & Coffee: If you want a peaceful view right in the heart of Saigon, opt for this place. This restaurant is a two-minute walk to the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon.
- Address: 86 Nguyen Du Str, Dst. 1, HCMC.
- Opening Hours: 7:30 AM – 10 PM
- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/bongsungvegetarianfoodandcoffee
In Vietnam, traditionally, most veggie consumers are vegan. Interestingly, people who are Buddhist (the most wide-spread religion in Vietnam) traditionally eat vegan two days of the lunar month. If you reach out to a local veggie restaurant, you will witness bunches of veggie meat, veggie egg, veggie duck, veggie beef, and many other interesting options that you cannot find anywhere else! Furthermore, we have a veggie fish source that you can purchase in Vietnam and take with you as you travel, just in case you try a street food rice cake with no veggie source.
If you are a vegan, feel free to enter any local veggie restaurant! If you are unsure of the risk, tell the sellers that you don’t eat egg: “Toi khong an trung.”
Kosher food is food prepared in accordance with Jewish Religious Dietary Laws. In very basic words, pork, rabbit, eagle, owl, catfish, sturgeon, shellfish, and most insects, and reptiles, among others, are non-kosher. Furthermore, there are certain sets of requirements that food must meet to be qualified as kosher as you know. Therefore, it is pretty hard to find a Kosher restaurant in Saigon. Let’s opt for this one:
Kosher Restaurant at Chabad House
- Address: 5A (Villa) Nguyen Dinh Chieu street, Da Kao Ward, District 1, HCMC
- Opening Hours: 9 AM – 9 PM
- Phone Number: +84 28 391 001 81
- Dining, take-away, and hotel delivery are all available.
- For more information, email email@example.com
- Website: http://www.koshervietnam.vn/
- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/ChabadSaigon
While there are not many Halal restaurants in town, don’t worry if you visit Saigon. Vegetarian cuisine is mostly Halal if the food does not contain alcohol. Therefore, I also recommend the above-mentioned restaurants.
Otherwise, you can stroll around Nguyen An Ninh Street, a small street next to Ben Thanh Market. There are some good options to choose from! Check out these highly recommended restaurants for a well-served Halal meal:
Halal Saigon: This restaurant was founded by a Malaysian in 2009; it embraces the fusion of Malaysian and Vietnamese flavors in a clean and Halal Environment.
- Address: 31 Dong Du Str, Dst. 1, HCMC.
- Opening Times: (daily) 7:30 AM – 10 PM
- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/halalsaigon0
The Daun Restaurant: Just a three-minute walk from Ben Thanh market, this restaurant is owned by a Singaporean. It offers Singaporean, Malaysian, Western, and of course Vietnamese culinary choices.
- Address: 194 Le Thanh Ton Str, Dist. 1, HCMC.
- Opening Times: (daily) 7 AM – 10:30 PM
- Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/TheDaunRestaurant/
Pho Muslim: A two-minute walk from Jamiul Islamiyah mosque, Pho Muslim serves halal authentic Vietnamese food. This small local restaurant’s dishes are reasonably priced.
- Address: Alley 505 Tran Hung Dao Str, Dst. 5, HCMC.
- Reviews & Tips: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g293925-d2427140-Reviews-Pho_Muslim-Ho_Chi_Minh_City.html
Gluten-Free Diet (GFD)
A strictly gluten-free diet can be a challenge, especially when you travel, people following a GFD must be greatly careful with their daily meal because of health issues rather than religious factors. There are several notices you can check out with an experienced celiac.
Before you choose a dish, don’t forget to check with the seller if it contains wheat ingredients (bot mi). Do emphasize to the sellers that you cannot eat wheat due to health issues. If you are not sure about the sources provided in a restaurant, I suggest not taking the chance.
Several dishes TO AVOID: Mi (egg noodles), Nui (macaroni noodles), hu tiu mi (tapioca noodles with egg noodles), bread, deep-fried meat or fish (these are often dredged in flour first for extra crunch).
Among many good restaurants in town that provide gluten-free options, I suggest dropping by Noir. Noir is not a typical gluten-free restaurant (there actually has yet to be a typical gluten-free option in town), however, it is a special dining place. It does serve gluten-free dishes, vegetarian options, and most importantly, it has a beautiful concept. Dark yet delicate, Noir was inspired by the wish to empower the visually impaired with a much better career path. All waiters are blind, yet adorably friendly. Do you believe that when your sight is temporarily disabled, you will enjoy the dish with a different perspective?
- Address: Lane 178 – 180D Hai Ba Trung Str, Da Kao Ward, Dst. 1, HCMC.
- Opening Times:
- Lunch: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
- Dinner: 5:30 PM – 11 PM (Last order at 9 PM)
I hope I can make your trip to this beautiful city more enjoyable! For more insight into how to get from the airport to the city center. If you feel confused about the city’s wonderful districts, see here.
I hope you will have a meaningful trip!