Veganism is not an unknown concept in Vietnam, as more and more young middle-class Vietnamese people are turning to a vegan diet for health and environmental reasons. Furthermore, as in other countries like China, Taiwan and Korea, where Buddhism is practiced, Vietnam’s observant communities will regularly eat what they call pure vegetarian (“chay”) food, which excludes all animal products, including eggs and milk. So many Vietnamese restaurants will serve vegan food a couple of times a month (usually mid-month and end of the month). At this time, you will notice that restaurants are full and you have to queue to get a table, but it will be well worth your while to get a mainstream vegan meal.
On other days, write the word “chay” on a piece of paper when going into a restaurant where English is not understood, in order to avoid confusion with other similar words. You will have ample choice of vegan or veganizable dishes as long as you stick with restaurants who prepare the vegetable dishes once you arrive. Otherwise, street food and small shacks usually prepare their food in advance and they have been known to just lift the pork off the dish to make it vegan. You will also have to be extra careful with the famous fish sauce that finds its way in most dishes and is considered more of a condiment than an animal product. No fish sauce (không có nước mắm) is another sentence to write down (see also VEGAN WORDS page). You’ll be able to find tofu everywhere, and have no difficulty finding a whole plethora of vegan milks, from the usual soya, cashew and almond milks to the more exotic black bean and lotus seeds milk (called Sữa hạt sen) usually sold from ambulant carts.
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