Lots of their dishes can be prepared to your liking, or are inherently gluten-free or vegan in the first place — which means that you don’t even need to ask for a special dish. You just need to know the right dishes to eat in the first place. This guide will help you navigate all of your options.

Most Vietnamese restaurants offer a selection of salads and cooked vegetables, and many have a dedicated section for vegetarian options. A vegetarian breakfast might consist of a banh mi with egg, or a bowl of mushroom congee. Lunch could be a banana heart or lotus stem salad with rice crackers, or a bowl of rice noodles served with hearty broth and fresh greens. Dinners are a great time to mix and match, with garlicky water spinach, fresh spring rolls, grilled eggplants, tofu in lemongrass and chili, caramelised mushrooms in claypots, five-colour fried rice, and Vietnamese che for dessert.

Vietnamese Buddhists eat meat-free food on the 1st and 15th of each month, and during these days you can find extensive vegetarian options in restaurants, and many vegetarian dishes sold in the morning markets. Many travellers come to love Vietnamese vegetarian buffets, which offer a wide array of novel dishes for a just a dollar or two.

A few key words will help you find more vegetarian options to eat in Vietnam. ‘Chay’ (pronounced ‘chai’) is the magic word. Say, “Tôi ăn chay” to let someone know you’re vegetarian, or “không thịt” to ask for no meat in your food. “Không nước mắm” — no fish sauce — is also an important phrase to use when placing orders. You can add the word ‘chay’ to request meat-free versions of regular dishes. Like this:

Phở chay = vegetarian pho

Bánh mì chay = vegetarian baguettes

Gỏi cuốn chay = fresh vegetarian spring rolls

Mì xào chay = stir-fried vegetarian noodles

Nộm hoa chuối: banana flower salad with lime

Đậu sốt cà chua: braised tofu in tomato sauce

Rau muống xào tỏi: stir-fried morning glory with garlic

Bánh xèo chay: savoury rice pancakes with bean sprouts, and mushrooms

Cao lầu chay: Hoi An noodles in soy dressing with greens

Đậu hũ chiên sả ớt: Tofu fried with shredded lemongrass and chili

Cà tím mỡ hành: Eggplant simmered with green onion

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