Green Gastronomy: A Vegetarian's Guide To Hanoi's Culinary Scene

From stir-fried spinach to banana blossom salad, Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, has a range of flavoursome dishes to offer, even if you’re a vegetarian
A Vietnamese chef preparing Rice Flour Pan Cake, a popular vegetarian dish
A Vietnamese chef preparing Rice Flour Pan Cake, a popular vegetarian dishPixabay

Hanoi, the vibrant capital city of Vietnam, is renowned for its rich culinary traditions that showcase the country's diverse and delectable flavours. While it is known for its bustling street food scene, Hanoi is also a haven for vegetarians, offering an array of mouthwatering vegetarian dishes that cater to every palate. Whether you're a seasoned vegetarian or simply looking to try something new, Hanoi has a delightful assortment of vegetarian options that will leave you craving for more.

1. Banana Blossom Salad (Nộm Hoa Chuối)

Nộm Hoa Chuối
Nộm Hoa Chuốicheflynnwheeler/instagram

Nộm hoa chuối is a type of salad that brings together delicate layers of the banana flower and a tangy dressing to result in a multitude of flavours. As the salad is put together, the banana blossom takes centre stage and is surrounded by various fresh ingredients, such as bean sprouts, green papaya, carrots, and coriander, which gives the dish a refreshing aroma. A dash of lime juice or vinegar is added as a finishing touch, which wonderfully counteracts the salad's mild sharpness.

Where to try: To savour an authentic culinary experience, head over to Katze Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurant.

2. Stir-Fried Water Spinach With Garlic (Rau Muống Xào Tỏi)

Rau Muống Xào Tỏi
Rau Muống Xào Tỏianh9restaurant.warsaw/instagram

This dish is among the most loved amongst the staples in Hanoi. Rau muống xào tỏi demonstrates the delightful combination of fresh water spinach, garlic and several seasonings. When it comes to its preparation, the spinach is first neatly trimmed and cleaned, then stir-fried to perfection in a wok or a large frying pan. The garlic and herbs lend this dish its unique and aromatic flavour. The simplicity of this recipe is a testament to the local, fresh, and high-quality ingredients that make up the cuisine.

Where to try: The Noodle & Roll restaurant, nestled in the heart of the Old Quarter, offers a generous selection of vegetarian and vegan street food choices.

3. Stir Fried Tofu In Tomato Sauce (Đậu Sốt Cà Chua)

Đậu Sốt Cà Chua
Đậu Sốt Cà Chuagronaella/instagram

When it comes to the top comfort foods of Vietnamese cuisine, stir-fried tofu with tomato sauce comes out on top. The dish is extremely popular among Vietnamese homes. Seasoned with fish sauce, the dish consists of cooked tofu and softened tomatoes. It is quickly cooked before being topped with thinly sliced scallions and served over hot, fluffy rice.

Where to try: Visit the Apron Up restaurant, renowned for preparing some of the city's finest dau sot ca chua.

4. Green Papaya And Mango Salad (Nộm đu đủ Xoài Xanh)

Nộm đu đủ Xoài Xanh
Nộm đu đủ Xoài Xanhritasflyinggourmet/instagram

Ripe mangoes and raw, green papaya are combined in this vibrant salad. The salad is crispy and tangy from the julienned green papaya, and a deep sweetness from the juicy, ripe mangoes. It is frequently garnished with a variety of fragrant herbs, including cilantro and mint, which give the dish a wonderful aroma.

Where to try: Explore the streets of Hanoi's Hoàn Kiếm district for a taste of the vegetarian rendition of this dish at Tam An Lac Vegetarian Restaurant, overseen by monks. They offer a modest yet nourishing all-you-can-eat buffet.

5. Rice Flour Pan Cake (Bánh Xèo)

Rice Flour Pan Cake
Rice Flour Pan CakeInstagram/uynkitchen

Bánh xèo batter is a combination of rice flour, turmeric, and coconut milk. The noise of the sizzling and cracking pancake as it touches the boiling oil in a huge skillet adds to the suspense. The pancake is wrapped over a decadent filling of abalone mushrooms, bean sprouts, and your choice of proteins after being baked to the ideal crispness.

Where to try: Look for local eateries and street food vendors where chefs demonstrate their culinary expertise. The Bánh Xèo Zòn Pancake eatery is a great starting point, renowned for specialising in the dish and offering an outstanding vegetarian alternative.

6. Soupy Noodle Bowl (Bún Chả Chay)

Bún Chả Chay
Bún Chả ChayUnsplash

Bún Chả Chay, a delightful Vietnamese dish, is a vegetarian twist on the classic Bún Chả, a famous street food. This soupy noodle bowl is a harmonious blend of flavours and textures. Thin rice noodles soak up a fragrant, savoury broth with aromatic herbs, soy sauce, and vegetable stock. The dish's star is marinated tofu, which adds a meaty texture and a burst of umami. Fresh herbs like mint, cilantro, Thai basil, crunchy bean sprouts, and pickled carrots provide a refreshing contrast.

Where to try: Make your way to Bún Chả Hương Liên, a humble eatery where former President Obama once enjoyed a memorable meal with the late culinary legend Anthony Bourdain. During their visit, they even requested the vegetarian version of the dish.

7. Floating Glutinous Rice Dumplings (Bánh Trôi)

Bánh Trôi
Bánh Trôi_dieulinh9095/instagram

Floating Glutinous Rice Dumplings, known as Bánh Trôi in Vietnamese cuisine, are a traditional dessert with a unique charm. These delicate, translucent dumplings are crafted from glutinous rice flour, resulting in a chewy, slightly sticky texture. The dumplings are filled with sweet mung bean paste and then boiled until they float to the surface, hence their name. What truly elevates Bánh Trôi is the ginger-infused syrup poured over them. The warm, aromatic syrup adds a sweet and spicy contrast that complements the subtle sweetness of the dumplings.

Where to try: Visit Bánh trôi tàu Phạm Bằng eatery, tucked away in the labyrinthine cobbled streets of the Old Quarter, to savour this delightful treat.

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