If you’re heading to Vietnam then it’s likely that you’ll end up in Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City as it’s also called) which is great if you’re a vegan because there’s some awesome vegan eating to do.
It’s easy to be vegan in Saigon because the number of ‘Quan Chay’ (vegetarian restaurants) which serve either all vegan food, or a large selection of vegan food. There is generally a good level of English spoken so language isn’t a huge barrier either (but do check out our Vegan Guide to Vietnam for a brief vegan language guide to be extra prepared).
The only thing that really stands between you and some awesome vegan food is the ‘daily-dice-with-death’ traffic situation which basically involves having to have eyes in the back of your head as motos zoom by you on the pavement, roads and any other vaguely flat surface, often at ridiculous speeds.
Anyway, we digress, back to the awesome vegan food. Here’s our Vegan Guide to Saigon with our favourite places to eat once you’ve survived the city traffic…
Address: 175/9 Pha Ngu Lao Street, District 1.
We love this place. It’s a vegetarian restaurant with a huge menu of mock meat Vietnamese dishes and (weirdly) some Mexican food too (not tried by us because we’re waiting until we go to a country a little more famed for producing good Mexican food before we delve in).
The noodle soups are great but it’s the fake stuff here that really blows our mind. Try their roast pork that had different textures in layers and tastes as real as either of us can remember but it’s just made from plants.
The mock chicken dishes don’t taste like chicken as such but they do taste good and offer an opportunity to eat something with a different texture (normally a bit chewy and something you can get your teeth into).
There’s wifi, beer and ladies trying to sell you tissues, a fan, some nail clippers or chewing gum at any opportunity which can be a good or bad thing depending on what you need during your meal.
Sen Quan Chay
Address: 171 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, District 1.
Just around the corner from Ngoc Tho, Sen is a little bit more upmarket and has a purely vegan Vietnamese menu. It’s much quieter (no ladies selling tissues), has a room where you sit on the floor on low tales and a table and chairs section upstairs. Downstairs there is a cabinet with foodstuff on sale including vegan stock, noodles, sauces and the intriguingly labelled ‘meat fluff’.
The portions were small (and therefore a bit pricey for this kind of restaurant) but they have the not-to-be-missed-must-try-if-you’re-in-Saigon vegan egg on the menu.
It’s worth a visit just to marvel at this vegan egg which actually tastes way better than an animal egg and has great novelty factor.
No beer here and be careful for hidden extras that you will be charged for like the wet tissue they will add to your bill after leaving it on the table. We laughed when we saw ’tissue’ on the menu with all the mock meat, thinking it was a bad menu description for something, only to find that it did actually mean ‘serviette’ and was chargeable. Weird.
Address: 86 Nguyen Du, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1.
If you want a nice night out in a lovely restaurant, with exceptionally friendly service and tasty healthy Vietnamese food, then head to Bong Sung.
The pate with baguette is full of flavour and has a great texture, it’s one of our favourite dishes there. Other things to sample include the ‘Mushrooms in Tamarind’ and the ‘Vegetable Curry’ (but be sure to ask for it to be made vegan as this dish normally has milk in it). The ‘Stuffed Tofu’ is also great.
The breakfasts are good too.
It’s become our other ‘go to’ place in Saigon when we want something that’s more of an occasion that a quick mock meat meal somewhere.
The staff speak excellent English and were really helpful recommending dishes and checking out ingredients. It’s worth noting that there is a ‘noodle’ dish on the menu that isn’t noodles at all, but a plate of mock chicken (freshly made). It split opinion here at the Vegan Food Quest with one of us not being too keen on it because it was a bit doughy and the other loving it because… well… it was a bit doughy.
They have beer here (only Heineken and you have to ask for it) and excellent soft drinks including a wonderful sweet and salted lemon juice (highly recommended).
Address: 32 Vo Van Tan, District 3.
We’re really only including this restaurant because it’s the place that everyone suggests you go and every says is the best restaurant for vegetarians in town. It isn’t. In fact it’s awful (or at least it was on our visit).
Overpriced under flavoured food that’s as stingy on ingredients as it is on flavour. We had a curry that was served with cold noodles which you’re supposed to add to the soup. Doing this makes an already not hot enough bland curry into a decidedly lukewarm bland curry.
“Are the noodles supposed to be cold?” we ask our waitress, “Oh yes” she says with a smile, followed by “Are you enjoying your food?” to which we reply “Not really as it’s cold and doesn’t taste of anything”.
“OK that’s great” she says with a smile and walks off.
That kind of sums up the service at Hum for us and we leave wit a feeling that they have been trading on their reputation as opposed to producing really good vegan and vegetarian food.
Address: Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers, 88 Dong Khoi, District 1.
We had a meal at Li Bai when we were staying at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers and were really impressed with the food there (it’s Chinese cuisine). They have a regular vegetarian menu with a lot of vegan dishes and there’s a huge choice of tofu, mock meat or just vegetable dishes to choose from.
We wrote a full review of everything we the in our meal there (click here) but one of our favourite dishes was the ‘sweet and sour vegetarian chicken’ made with braised tofu skin and wrapped around a crunchy lotus root before being deep fried and covered in a sticky sweet and sour sauce.
R&J Italian Lounge and Restaurant
Address: The Reverie Saigon, 22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, District 1.
For a world class, authentic Italian meal (and maybe the best bread you’ve ever tasted) it’s well worth visiting R&J, the Italian restaurant from über luxury hotel The Reverie. There are already some vegan items on the regular menu but for best results, call ahead and tell them you are vegan so they can create you a few things to eat. Expect glitz, glamour and a bit of theatre with your food (and expect to be amazed).
We loved everything we ate there but the Minestrone and the Smoked Eggplant Spaghetti were particular stand out dishes for us.
Really, really wonderful.
Read more here (but be prepared for a lot of gushing about how good the food is).
Bistro Song Vie
Address: Villa Song, 197/2 Nguyen Van Huong Street, District 2.
All the way out in District 2 but well worth a visit, is the restaurant attached to the lovely riverside retreat Villa Song. We were staying at Villa Song and were so impressed with the chef and his team that we decided to have dinner there too… it totally exceeded our expectations and we were blown away with a few of the dishes. Delicious soups, homemade fresh gnocchi and a vegetable platter that was like eating art.
Mystery Banh Mi An Chay
We also ate this great ‘banh mi an chay’ but forgot to write down where we got it from (a bakery somewhere as we were wandering in District 1) so we’re including it for vegan food porn purposes only.
On our trip to Saigon last year we checked out the Banh Mi Bistro (76 Vo Thi Sau Street in District 1) and although they had mock meat, the bread wasn’t great and it was served with ketchup and mustard… not really a proper banh mi just a bit of a naff mock meat baguette.
This mystery banh mi cha had nice pickles and mushrooms that had been cooked in a sweet, spicy, chilli and soy sauce, plus it had fresh herbs and the bread was crispy and fresh. If you come across it on your travels be sure to let us know where we bought it from!
So that’s it, for now! There are so many places to eat in vegan in Saigon and never enough meals in the day to get through everything; let us know your favourites in the comments section below and let’s share the vegan love…
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Or why don’t you come and stay with us in our very own Vegan Villa in Siem Reap, Cambodia where we can treat you to the best of vegan hospitality and share with you our favourite vegan spots in Temple Town; check out our listing on Airbnb and come and stay if you’re in the area!