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Vegetarian visiting Vietnam

Puyallup, Washington
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Vegetarian visiting Vietnam

Hello! I am visiting Vietnam soon and had some questions. I am a vegetarian will this pose any problems? Is it easy to find non meat(including seafood) foods in Vietnam?

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1. Re: Vegetarian visiting Vietnam

On the beaten track, yes, there are plenty of completely vegetarian places.

Off the beaten track, it becomes a bit more tricky and, while food places are usually very accommodating, the Vietnamese tendency to say "Yes" means you can never be completely sure what went into your meal.

I've been in kitchens plenty of places where they will check their ingredients are OK with me before they cook me up a great meal.

There's http://www.happycow.net/asia/vietnam/ to get you started, but there are many many other places not on HappyCow.

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2. Re: Vegetarian visiting Vietnam

I have certainly found it easier over the years, but still incomprehension comes into play in many places.

As Manatdollar suggests, when you get off the beaten track it can be very difficult indeed. But even in popular tourist haunts, and especially in the north, some processes in the preparation of otherwise vegetarian dishes might involve pork fat for frying, or fish sauce might be added for flavour, or vegetable dishes might be scattered with a little pork or chicken.

Look out for eateries whose signs specifically state 'Com chay' as they should be strictly vegetarian.

I have to confess that I have often eaten fish and shellfish in Vietnam simply to stay alive, but I do spend long periods there and if I were visiting only for a short time I could survive by eating mainly steamed rice or noodles with vegetables, plus the delicious local baguettes and fruit from market stalls. Or indeed tofu served in some form or other - heavens how I hate that stuff but it is widely available.

Egg dishes are available all over the country and will no doubt feature heavily in the breakfasts included in the cost of your hotel rooms, but only in very small rural towns are the eggs likely to be from free range chickens.

Edited: 06 July 2014, 21:15
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3. Re: Vegetarian visiting Vietnam

We recently travelled the north with a vegetarian amongst us as she had very few problems though I'm sure on occasion she may have unknowingly had some fish sauce in her meals. Lucky for her she likes Tofu ( tasteless texture less mush everytime I tried it) and there were also plenty of menus offering vegetarian options such as veg beef, veg pork, veg seafood and even veg frog! I am told these are soya based items...she says nervously.

I think you will have no issues in the main tourist areas, there are vegetarian only places in most of them. If you go off the beaten track use the phrase as suggested by CB, or ask an English speaking guide to explain for you. We did get a vegetarian soup in Mai Chau with chicken in it, but it was obvious and quickly rectified.

Ho Chi Minh City...
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4. Re: Vegetarian visiting Vietnam

Because Vietnamese Buddhists practice vegetarianism 4 days each month, two at the beginning of the lunar month and two halfway through the lunar month most Vietnamese understand the request for strict vegetable meal but that can still get lost in translation. as CB mentioned Com Chay pronounced Com Chi as in "eye".

When I deliver free vegetarian meals all I need do is call that out and they know exactly what I am offering them.

I found tofu was tasteless textureless mush too until I started eating vegetarian food in Vietnam. its a whole different world of flavours and textures that I didnt know existed. I have served Duck soup tp people who couldnt believe it was made from duck right down to the skin of the duck and the meat grained texture of the duck meat achieved from pulling the tofu during one of its processes much like we would do making pulled toffee. To get the skin effect they skim the skin that forms on the top of tofu when its maturing and then fry it and viola it looks and feels like duck skin.

When doing marinated pork ribs they use little pieces of bamboo for the rib bones and you would swear it was pork meat attached to the bone.

From an ardent carnivore I have had to change my whole thinking towards vegetarian food. I still love my meat but eat vegetarian a lot of the time.

I think you will find Vietnamese vegetarian food a pleasant surprise.

Enjoy the food, Pierre.

Hanoi, Vietnam
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5. Re: Vegetarian visiting Vietnam

Tofu isn't all that bad, it just needs a little garlic and soy. Deep fried tofu is sold constantly from street vendors in Hanoi. Yogurt in Vietnam is delicious, and now comes in fruit flavors.

6. Re: Vegetarian visiting Vietnam

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