Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

Sunnietart just went on a trip to Vietnam. She Reviews on the vegetarian food available in Vietnam:

I was quite apprehensive about finding vegetarian food in Vietnam when I first booked my air tix. Firstly, the most famous food in Vietnam is the ‘pho’ – which is beef noodles and they are known to love exotic food such as dog meat and raw pumping snake heart. So I didn’t bear much hopes about looking for good veg food in HCM city, just got prepared to eat more bread and fried rice (the food that is easiest to order at non-veg places). So it was a pleasant surprise to find not one but at least three pure vegetarian places at HCM City in my recent trip in August 2008. Maybe its due to the booming tourism industry, the restaurants at the backpackers area where I stayed (Pham Ngu Lao street) mostly had vegetarian options. Not to mention that there are 3 vegetarian eateries in this area as well. The vegetarian eateries serve a wide selection of cosmpolitan veg fare. Their menus contain Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Meditteranean, Italian, Mexican food – I am so so amazed! Unfortunately, as a true blue traditional and not so adventurous Chinese, I am inclined to order boring and safe Chinese food. So dun expect any surprises in these pics- they are just veggie, more veggie and not to forget my favourite tofu.

1. Veggie Stall in the back street of Pham Ngu Lao
I arrived in HCM city pretty early in the morning and had to wait for a few hours before my hotel check in. Thus, I took a walk nearby and spotted a vegetarian street stall. In Vietnam, vegetarian is ‘Chay’ – which is quite similar to Thai Jay. This stall sells vegetarian curry, an assortment of veggie salad (looks like, there is no menu though, so it’s a guess it vietnamese noodles. I was pretty full at that time but was attracted by these tofu so I bought 2 pcs to try. There is some fried chilli bits on top of the tofu. At first I had a hard time figuring out what that was and even thought there were some insects hahahaha! Anyway, the tofu is so saltish that I cannot finish the second piece. Disappointing, it is also hard and not as soft as the sg version. Anyway, I think this stall is only opened in the morning, coz I didn’t encounter it again. It is in the vicinity of Vien Dong Hotel, Pham Ngu Lao Street though.

Fried Tofu 70cents

2. Saigon Vegetarian Buffet – Van Canh Restaurant
This restaurant was not in happy cow. I saw the banner on the way to the famous Ben thanh market. It’s a short 4 mins walk fm Ban Thanh Market and a 10 mins slow walk from Pham Ngu Lao Street.
The brochure states that they are having vegetarian buffet from 31 July 2008 to 31 August 2008. I tried to ask the staff if this is a one off thing but they do not understand English. So that’s really too bad, you may wish to call to check before going though.
To a common Vietnamese, the buffet is expensive at 120,000 Vietnamese doung per person which adds up to about SGD$11. The selection is EXTENSION and really IMPRESSIVE! There is everything from sweet and sour soup, every type of imaginable salad, even two types of curry (chicken and prawn), Vietnamese spring roll, desserts, a huge selection of veggies and mock meats. I am totally quite blown away.Sorry for the lack of pics as I was too busy eating away. I would encourage more vegetarians to support them though.

Buffet Spread SGD11 per pax

The restaurant has a nice cheery ambience and you will be surprised that many Vietnamese are into the veg diet too, it was almost full house when I was there on a Friday nite.

Location: Van Canh RestaurantAdd: 184 Calmette Quan 1, TP, HCM (dist 1) Tel: (848)829 4963
Email: vancanh@libertyhotels.com.vn

3. An Lac Chay
This restaurant enjoyed good ratings at HappyCow and its also just a short 5 mins walk from Vien Dong Hotel and situated in the backpackers area. Though the location is good, many people may still missed it as it is on the second floor of another restaurant. Thus, you would have to go into that restaurant to take the stairs to this veggie place.
Nevertheless, I was there on a Saturday nite and there were just 4 diners. Decoration of the restaurant was pretty old, and has a homely feel though. We had our dinner at the balcony and it felt quite nostalgic.
We ordered ‘sweet mustard soup’, ‘stir fried water spinach’, ‘veggie chicken’ and ‘fried tofu’. The dishes are pretty tasty though forgettable. Price was about SGD$9 for all these dishes.

Sweet Mustard Soup

Stir-fried Spinach

Veggie Chicken

Fried Tofu Cubes

Location: An Lac Chay
Add: 175/4 Pham Ngu Lao, Quan 1, TP, Ho Chi Minh
Tel: 8377751
Operating Hours: Opens everyday from 10am to 10pm

3. Ngoc Tho Vegetarian Food
This ground floor restaurant is just two doors away from An Lac Chay. Thus, its not hard to guess that their business is also better. I had two meals at this place, food is not bad too.
I love love their fried button mushrooms!!! I wonder how to make it using plain buttom mushrooms. Shucks! Its making me salivate as I’m typing this now.

Fried Mushrooms

Fried Rice

Bitter Gourd Soup

Braised Tofu

Location: Ngoc Tho Vegetarian Food
Add: 175/9 Pham Ngu Lao Q1
Tel: 8360162
Emai: ngoctho_restaurant@yahoo.com.vn
Operating Hours: Opens everyday (cant rem the time though, but they serve breakfast too)

4. Falafellim
I walked past this place on the way to Ben Thanh Market but didn’t have a chance to eat there. They serve a selection of Pita Wraps soo.
The signboard says vegetarian but Happy Cow says that it does serve some chicken though so gotta be careful.

Location: Fallafellim
Add: 97 Pham Ngu Lao Street, Q1
Tel: 08-9151733

5. Day Tours by Sinh Cafe

While in HCM city, I also joined a day tour to the Mekong Delta. Lunch is provided and this is what I get:

Looks miserable and unhealthy but it does taste pretty good or maybe I was hungry. The spring roll is delicious..or maybe I was hungry though I really cant figure out whats the content coz it was over fried hahaha..

Day tours usually do cater to vegetarians just that you would need to notify the guide in advance.
Sinh Café Website; http://www.sinhcafevn.com/
According to my many days of intense studying over the internet, sinh café is one of the highly raved, honest and reasonably priced travel operator in Vietnam. I joined their day tour to Mekong Delta (at SGD 13 with lunch provided) and also took their transportation to Mui Ne Beach and they were efficient. All in all, I was pleasantly impressed with the convenience of looking for vegetarian food in Vietnam. One thing to note is their vege food contains garlic and onion, thus pls notify them if you do not take these food. And Pham Ngu Lao (the backpackers area) is a good location to stay in HCM city. Plenty of food and good variety of travel operators in that area. Looking forward to going there again soon!