For all the vegetarians worried about not being able to eat anything but rice in Vietnam- don’t worry! Believe it or not, Vietnam has a variety of vegetarian dishes. One reason for this is the main religion of the country. A majority of Vietnam is Buddhist, and on the 1st and 15th day of each month (on the lunar calendar), the Buddhist population eats “An Chay” – which means vegetarian in Vietnamese. You may notice many restaurants are closed on these days since they don’t offer vegetarian dishes.
There are many restaurants that make classic dishes in vegetarian or vegan ways. The photo above shows a woman making Banh Bot Loc. This dish is typically made with pork and dipped in fish sauce. However, she twists it into a totally vegan dish. Using a special type of gelatinous rice flour paste, marinated tofu with the slightest amount of chili, and seaweed, she makes a sweet and salty that’s wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. Like a lot of Vietnamese dishes- Banh Bot Loc is all about the texture. It’s soft and chewy, and you can eat about 5 or 6 of these before starting to get full.
Other common Vietnamese vegetarian dishes include seaweed soup, tofu and mushrooms in a clay pot with garlic and soy sauce, sauteed morning glory, and more. Seen below is a veggie version of a Central Vietnamese favourite called Cau Lao. Instead of using pork and fish sauce, this dish is made with tofu and a soy based sauce with special Cao Lao noodles topped with crispy rice crackers. (Super delicious!)
Overall, eating vegetarian in Vietnam is quite easy since there’s almost always a tofu dish or sauteed veggies on the menu. For stricter vegetarians or vegans it may be difficult to rule out dishes that contain absolutely 0% fish sauce since it is used to flavour a lot of broths & sauces.
So, if you’re going out to eat and want to make sure you’re getting a veggie dish, make sure to double check using the words “An Chay”!