Could Hue vegetarian restaurants be the best in Vietnam? We think so! If you’re after authentic vegetarian and vegan Vietnamese dishes created for locals (instead of bland tourist food that’s been de-meated), then you’ll love the huge variety of vegetarian restaurants in Hue as much as I did!
Note: In Vietnam, there’s not much distinction made between vegetarian and vegan. Most vegetarian restaurants in Hue are completely vegan, though a few serve one or two dishes with egg or milk. You just have to ask!
I loved my vegan eating adventure in Hue so much that I created a free printable guide to Hue vegetarian restaurants. Grab it now! It includes maps and the addresses of all the places I mention in this post!
Why is Hue Vegan and Vegetarian Heaven?
Hue was, for centuries, the centre of Buddhist scholarship in Vietnam; Hue has 108 pagodas and 300 Buddhist temples. Because of that, Buddhist in Hue are a little more devout than in many other parts of the country. In Hue, many people eat vegetarian food 2-6 days per month to observe the special Buddhist lunar days.
There is also a legend that the emperors, who resided in the Hue Imperial City from 1802 to 1945, instructed their chefs to serve a different dish for every day of the year. According to lore, there are 1,300 individual dishes that make up Hue’s cuisine and these includes hundreds of vegetarian dishes.
That’s great news for travellers who want to experience vegetarian and vegan Vietnam. Some of the best food in Hue is vegan and even if you spend weeks in Hue, you won’t tire of the variety of vegetarian restaurants in Hue.
So, if you’re a vegan or vegetarian visiting Hue, here’s…
Vespa Adventures Vegetarian Food Tour
My introduction to Hue vegan food falls into the capable hands of Duong, a tour guide for Vietnam Vespa Adventures.
Unfortunately, the incessant Hue rain has not stopped for days (November is not the best month to come here) and many of the places that would normally be on the tour are closed because the city is flooded.
Vespa Adventures offers* to take me out anyway and I gladly accept.The Vespa Adventures food tours are half Hue city tour, half food tours, so I know I will get to see the main attractions of Hue while stuffing my face with the best food in Hue.
After a welcome cocktail (an excellent way to start any vegetarian food tour), I am given a thick blue poncho and a bright orange helmet. I hop onto the back of a lovingly restored vintage Vespa and we roll off down the soggy streets.
We start our tour at perhaps the most famous vegetarian restaurant in northern Vietnam…
Lien Hoa, The Most Popular Hue Vegetarian Restaurant
3 Le Quy Don, Hue, Vietnam
Even if you have a good understanding of Vietnamese food in other parts of the country, the menu at Lien Hoa can be confusing. Many of the dishes are regional and the English translations are just this side of hilarious. For instance, there are about 10 dishes of “mecan”. I found out later that this is wheat gluten / seitan. Yum!
Expert dining tip: If you go to Lien Hoa at lunch, you can order the Com Dia, a plate of rice with assorted dishes of the day. It’s a great way to try a little of everything without over-ordering.
This is the Com Dia at Lien Hoa – costs about $1.50 USD.
Duong starts me off with a plate of Banh Cuon. In Hanoi, Banh Cuon came as a small pile of paper thin rice noodles, topped with crispy fried onions.
This is Banh Cuon from Hanoi.
In Hue vegetarian restaurants, vegan Banh Cuon is a spring roll of thick rice noodle, stuffed with fresh veggies. The dip, a creamy peanut-infused soy paste, is what really makes the dish come alive.
Banh Cuon in Hue is a spring roll with fresh veggies inside.
Banh Loc is a tiny rice flour dumpling containing a smidgen of mushroom. Again, the dipping sauce brings out the flavour of what might otherwise be a bland dish.
Vegan Banh Loc at Lien Hoa, the most popular Hue vegetarian restaurant.
The Banana Buds in Sesame was my favourite dish at Lien Hoa. It has a chewy texture and is used a stand-in for chicken on Buddhist days. The sesame adds a light nutty flavour. Eating it, I couldn’t imagine that this dish was somehow related to bananas!
This is made from banana flower, if you can believe it!
No Vietnamese vegetarian food tour is complete without tomato tofu. In Hue vegetarian restaurants, tofu tends to be served in large fried hunks that give it a tough skin you have to bite through. It’s perfectly polite to pick the entire piece up with your chopsticks and take a chomp out of it – no need to cut it beforehand as we might do at home.
Tofu in tomato sauce is the most common vegan food in Vietnam.
I’m not even sure the mixed mushroom dish Duong ordered was on the menu. That’s the pleasure of taking a food tour – you get to try things you might not discover on your own. These little slippery mushrooms were a chopstick challenge but tasted great when I managed to get them in my mouth.
Slippery but delicious mushrooms at Lien Hoa, Hue, Vietnam.
After dinner, we zip around the city on the Vespa and I get to see the Hue attractions by night. Lights sparkle prettily on the Perfume River but the streets are almost empty because of the rain. Many of the places that would normally appear on a vegetarian food tour of Hue are closed. But finally, we find a che restaurant where I get to explore the most popular Vietnamese desert.
Usually, che is ordered in a single bowl and you just ask for (or point out) the items you’d like to add. So I can try everything, Duong orders each item in its own individual glass!
A little bit of everything on offer at a typical Che dessert stall.
When I’ve had a taste of yellow mung beans, purple mashed taro, red adzuki beans, orange gelatinous cubes and all the other ingredients, I ask for a cup and mix it all together with a generous serving of ice to cut the sweetness. I do like che in small quantities but agree with Duong’s assessment that it’s a little sweet!
Source: My Five Acres by Jane