Vegetarian eating in Vietnam – same, same but different!
Vietnam is not only a rather peculiar country of North Asia with extremely friendly and helpful people but its vegetarian regional menu is also worth discussing. The majority of Vietnamese population is meat-eaters, however, there are those who prefer vegetarian cuisine and pay much attention to the issue of their nutrition and health. Many meals are prepared and sold in the streets. Therefore, you will probably need some extra guidance to thoroughly study the Vietnamese vegetarian menu.
Speaking about vegetarian regional menu, it's important to pay attention to the basic features of vegetarianism and peculiarities of the meals the entire vegetarian used to eat. Since, it's a common knowledge that vegetarianism is referred to the practice of not eating meat and its all possible by-products. This means that, vegetarians are the people who exclude from their daily meals beef, poultry and most of dairy products or eggs. However, there are several types of vegetarians and some of them still eat a number of dairy products. The majority of vegetarians also don't eat the products derived from animal carcasses including tallow, lard, rennet, gelatin, cochineal, etc. It's interesting to mention the new tendency present in vegetarianism of not wearing clothes, shoes or accessories made from animals (for example, silk, leather, fur and feather).
The abundance in fresh vegetables and fruit!
Whereas vegetarian cuisine in the West often means a bland plate of grilled vegetables or strange faux meat products, Vietnamese vegetarian fare sticks to familiar flavors and ingredients. Like it is the case with many other South-Asian countries, the Vietnamese vegetarian menu that features fish and meat as seasonings and condiments is something to talk about. Speaking about the Vietnamese cuisine, it's impossible not to mention about its abundance in fresh vegetables and fruit. However, these vegetables and even various tofu dishes are often made with pork, meat broth or fish. Sometimes, Vietnamese vegetarian regional menu includes all the mentioned three ingredients. Some professionals in sphere of vegetarianism consider Vietnamese menu to be among the most outstanding and significant cuisines on Earth (along with the African-American vegetarian menu). Many tourists who visit Vietnam often state that food and specific regional menu is one of the important reasons to visit the country.
It's impossible to speak about Vietnam and not to tell you some words about the well-known dishes included in the Vietnamese vegetarian menu. Vietnam cuisine is full of such outstanding delicates as vegetarian version of pho, Vietnamese meat and noodle soup, noodle-rice shacks, vegetable soups, sweet-and-sour cauliflower, stir-fried noodles and vegetables... For those seeking meatless fare for dietary reasons, religious leanings, or just personal preference, there are a handful of well-run and exciting Vietnamese vegetarian restaurants in the city worth getting to know. You would imagine that, in a society where roughly 85% of the people are practicing Buddhists, vegetarian restaurants could be found on every corner. Thus, it won't be an exaggeration to say that Vietnam offers a warm welcome to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians nowadays.
A place to enjoy?
When Dang Hong Diem - a fifty-one-year-old retired electrical engineer- decided to open a vegetarian restaurant, she wanted "to create a relaxed atmosphere without the loud music that so many others have now. I also wanted simple and elegant service." Anyone who has been to Nang Tam, the latest addition to Hanoi's gourmet scene, knows Diem has succeeded. The restaurant shows off a wide range of Vietnamese dishes while answering the demand for vegetarian food in Hanoi. She settled on a vegetarian restaurant because her foreign friends said there was not a good one in Hanoi. As the menu explains, she then named her establishment Nang Tam after the Cinderella-like character in a Vietnamese fairytale who wins her prince with her home cooking.
Diem originally spent months touring the country collecting recipes and ideas. The menu includes the regional specialties she tasted as well as a blend of Vietnamese and Western favorites. There are thirty vegetarian dishes to choose from and daily specials made with pork, fish or chicken for meat-eaters.
Carrots, tofu and mushrooms are used to replace the meat in dishes like roast duck and beef salad. For a first course, we recommend the creamy potato soup. Popular main courses include snowballs or tuyet hoa, a deep-fried combination of grated potatoes, chopped mushrooms and croutons. Also popular are the spring rolls, a vegetarian version of the traditional nem. The breaded chicken croquettes or ga tam bot ran are actually cauliflower bouquets dipped in a batter and deep fried. The stuffed cabbages or bap cai nhoi are another favorite. You can finish your meal with a fruit tart and a cup of coffee.
In addition to the food, clients are impressed with the helpful service and hospitable attitude. Classical music and a working fireplace add to the ambiance as ambassadors and students mix with Vietnamese businesspeople. "It's one of those hidden treasures," says American tourist Nancy Howe. "The portions are just right and the prices are reasonable."
Nang Tam is not easy to find, though it is definitely worth the trouble. Just down the street from the Cambodian Embassy, a sidewalk sign advertises Com Cay Nang Tam or Vegetarian Restaurant. Located at 79 Tran Hung Dao, Nang Tam is set off the street behind a yellow French colonial building that is now home to the Financial Times. The restaurant's ten small tables are usually full so reservations are required, especially for dinner.
Even you are not a vegetarian; please do not hesitate to try this kind of food in our country because it will give you the unique taste with the frequent ingredients! That is “same, same but difference!”