Eat vegetarian food is a global trend that is also leading the tourism sector to adapt by offering and developing vegetarian products (in hotels, restaurants, cruise ships,…). What about Vietnam? In this article we talk about the sources of vegetarianism in Vietnam and list the best vegetarian restaurants in Hanoi.
Vegetarian food in Vietnam
A healthy, balanced diet
Whether vegetarian or not, Vietnamese cuisine is known for being balanced and healthy. The ingredients used cover all the body’s needs, and their diversity ensures excellent nutrition. Fresh vegetables garnish every dish and sauces are rare, as are chillies. Don’t be afraid to eat in street ‘boui-boui’ – that’s where the best food is! These are traditional, family-style dishes, not industrial.
The result? A slim, energetic population proud of its gastronomy!
Traditional cuisine, however well-balanced it may be, still has a strong emphasis on animal products (pork, chicken, beef, etc.). However, this meaty diet is counterbalanced by another tradition: Buddhism.
Vegetarianism in the Buddhist tradition
The Vietnamese Buddhist tradition is that of the Great Vehicle, the Mahayana. The Mahayana sutras (religious books) repeatedly condemn meat-eating. For example, in the Great Parinirvana Sutra, the Buddha says: “Eating meat destroys great compassion” and advises his disciples not to eat meat (see the book Les larmes du bodhisattva: Enseignements bouddhistes sur la consommation de chair animale, Editions Padmakara, 2005, p 68). According to Matthieu Ricard, “for Buddhists in general, being vegetarian is a way of showing compassion for animals”.
Vietnamese Buddhist monks are strictly vegetarian. The faithful can also come and share meals with the monks on the 1st and 15th lunar days of each month.
According to the 2019 census, around 5 million people in Vietnam claim to be Buddhists and follow the Mahayana teachings.
And increasingly in vogue
Changing eating habits are a global trend, and Vietnam is no exception. Buddhism is a very good source of legitimacy for all those who want to advocate a vegetarian diet. The guardian figure of Buddha is very present in many vegetarian restaurants. The vegetarian diet most often comes with a change of attitude in life, thanks also to the practice of yoga and meditation.
As the vegetarian diet becomes more and more fashionable, vegetarian restaurants in Vietnam, and especially in Hanoi, are becoming more and more numerous.
Let’s take a look at the best places to eat in the Vietnam capital.
The best vegetarian restaurants in Hanoi
Hanoi is now home to many excellent vegetarian restaurants. Some are renowned for the quality of their dishes, but also for the decoration of their establishments. Others are perfect for everyday lunches.
Chic restaurants to try
Here are three places we recommend you try during your stay in Hanoi. The establishments are perfect for a dinner as a couple or with the family. The quality of the food and the charm of the place are at their best!
Uu Dam Chay
- Address: 34 Hang Bai, Hoan Kiem
- Opening times: Monday to Thursday (7.30am – 10pm) and Friday to Sunday (7.30am – 10.30pm)
- Price: around 15 to 20 euros per person
Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful restaurants in Hanoi!
Uu Dam (Udumbara) is a Sanskrit term meaning “sacred flower descending from heaven to earth”. According to Buddhist scriptures, Udumbara trees are extremely rare, flowering only once every three millennia. The blossoming of the Udumbara marks the appearance of a Buddha in the world. After thousands of years absorbing the essence of heaven and earth, Udumbara blossoms quietly, a pure and precious signal of a prosperous new era.
Inspired by this history, Uu Dam Chay was built with the desire to spread this positive spirit. The restaurant offers a warm and calm atmosphere, with exquisite, nutritious and healthy cuisine in a peaceful and relaxing environment for all diners.
- Address: 87 Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
- Opening times: 10.30am – 10pm
- Price: around €10 to €15 per person
This is Ưu Đàm Chay’s little brother! Sadhu has the same owner and is part of the same Buddhist Zen tradition. The word ‘sadhu’ comes from the Pali language with which the first Buddhist texts were written. In this language, “sadhu” means “praise of goodness”. The restaurant is intended as an encouragement to make peace with oneself and to share this peace with others. The owner of this restaurant is inviting us to a moment of communion!
This is undoubtedly why this restaurant is a buffet. But a buffet served at the table. In fact, you can choose as many dishes from the menu as you like. The portions are small, so if you order more than ten dishes, there’s no problem!
A superb setting for a business lunch or a romantic dinner.
Aummee Vegetarian Restaurant
- Address: 26 Chau Long street, Ba Dinh district
- Opening hours: 10am – 9pm
- Price: around 10 to 15 euros per person
Established in 2014, the Aummee restaurant is located near the small Truch Bach lake in the north of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The aim here is to spread vegetarian culture in order to preserve living things.
Decorated in a sober and less impressive way than the first two restaurants mentioned, the restaurant’s design is no less meaningful: the colour yellow creates a feeling of lightness and tranquillity. The restaurant aims to be a place where you can eat well and relax.
The restaurant can accommodate up to 135 people on two floors and in 5 different rooms. If you’re travelling in a group, you can reserve a room just for you (the maximum capacity of the largest room is 45 covers).
When it comes to food, Aummee takes particular care with the decoration and flavour of its dishes. And the names of the dishes also refer to Buddhist spirituality: “reunion”, “compassion” etc.
Here is a short but enthusiastic Tripadvisor review:
“We started our trip with this restaurant, it was really delicious. full of taste buds and charming staff with a very zen decor” (February 2019)
Restaurants to choose for everyday life
Here are a few restaurants we recommend for everyday meals. Most of them offer a buffet lunch.
Tue Linh Chay
- Address: no 27 Nguyen Van Loc street, Ha Dong district
- Opening hours: daily from 8am to 10pm
- Prices: from €3 to €5 per person
This is the restaurant founded by Ms Huong, director of Parfum d’Automne! Ms Huong became a vegetarian a few years ago and founded Tue Linh Chay with friends in 2018.
The restaurant is located in the south of Hanoi, in the Ha Dong district. We recommend eating there when you visit the silk village of Van Phuc, for example. The restaurant is just a few metres from the entrance to the village.
Like the first restaurants listed in this article, Tue Linh is Buddhist. The restaurant offers a buffet lunch at 90,000 VND.
The restaurant also sells the products used in its cooking: clean and organic!
- Opening times: daily from 11am to 2pm and from 6pm to 9.30pm
- Price: around €3-4 per person
Here’s a vegetarian restaurant chain that’s becoming increasingly popular. The restaurant works on the principle of an all-you-can-eat buffet: the price is 80,000 VND (3.5 euros) per person. You can then help yourself to as much as you like!
There are two restaurants not far from Ba Dinh Square and the Mausoleum. The 3rd is much further out, near the western lake. This last restaurant is a favourite with young expatriates living in Tay Ho.
Here is a Tripdvisor review of this restaurant:
“You pay 80k at the start and you can eat as much as you like. There are soups, salads, white and brown rice and about 6 to 8 different vegan dishes. Tea is also free. Everything tasted good and they fill up frequently. The place is also beautifully decorated. Can certainly recommend!”
Shops selling vegan products in Hanoi
We’ve seen that a few restaurants also sell organic and healthy products. Let’s now take a look at some brands that specialise in retailing vegan products.
- Address 1: 26 Tran Binh Trong, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi
- Address 2: 19 rue Truc Khe, Lang Ha, Dong Da, Hanoi
- Opening hours: daily from 7.30am to 8pm and Sunday from 9am to 5pm
Homefood is a vegan grocery shop selling clean, organic food and cosmetics made in Vietnam (although some products are also imported).
The establishment sees itself as a promoter of good-practice producers, and we can only encourage them in this direction! If you live in Hanoi, don’t hesitate to do some shopping there.
- Address: 186 Ngoc Ha, Ba Dinh
Let’s end this list with a favourite: Lovegan. A young couple (and their newborn son) run this vegan café in a quiet little alleyway. They make all their own vegan products and it’s delicious!
Here’s what an enthusiastic traveller had to say about it just over a year ago:
“Yesterday we found Lovegan and we’re repeating it today. A small, quiet and comfortable place. You feel at home here. Noise in the distance. All you hear is relaxing music and the sound of pleasant cooking. The food is good, the best we’ve tried in Hanoi. Don’t miss it!”
Feel free to check it out, they speak English!
So now you know all our top vegetarian eating tips!
All that’s left is to wish you… BON APPETIT!!!