Most of my friends warned me that I would be hard pressed to find vegetarian food here in Vietnam, however, I argue that that is not the case! :) Vietnam has a small Buddhist population and a growing vegetarian population which I believe have influenced the vegetarian options available. For example, there are three vegetarian restaurants within walking distance of my field partner's office. Here are some of my favorite vegetarian dishes thus far:
Mustard leaf rolls: Fried tofu, mushroom, vermicelli, jicama, carrot, cilantro and peanut butter wrapped in mustard leaves and tied with green onions. (The tofu/seaweed salad wasn't bad either!). The peanut butter is homemade and the restaurant owner even makes her own black sesame seed butter!
Vegetarian street pho: I'm still getting down to the bottom of what is included in this, but I love that they added peanuts! As a side note: this picture embodies classic Hanoi dining: children's plastic chairs and tables (which my legs can't and never will fit under) on the street. This meal cost me 30k (just over $1 USD).
Banana leaf salad: Banana leaves, jicama, carrot, sesame seeds (I'll have to find out what the green leaves are! The banana leaves are brown).
I've only been in Vietnam for about 2 weeks and I'm excited to see the rest of what Vietnam has to offer!
Update: It's been 2 months since I arrived in Vietnam and I'm still loving all of the vegetarian options, especially in Hanoi!
Fresh spring rolls: This one was so simple, but so good! Lightly fried tofu, lettuce, cilantro, carrots and rice vermicelli noodles wrapped in rice paper.
Mushroom and tomato soup: I found this place on a cold, rainy day (it went from sweltering to freezing cold within a couple of weeks!) and couldn't have been happier! The soup had all kinds of mushrooms, lettuce, tomatoes, noodles and this item I had never seen or heard of before (the brown slices with black specks). The chef said it's made from wheat and mushrooms. Either way, it tasted great!
Egg and tofu banh mi sandwich: I never eat sandwiches in the U.S., but I've lost count of how many of these I've eaten. It contains cucumbers, tofu, egg, carrots, and lots of cilantro (I've never eaten so much cilantro in my life!).
** Disclaimer: I am not a strict vegetarian; I do prefer to reduce the amount of animals that are killed as well as reduce my negative impact on the environment when there are many other food options available. If you are on the fence about going vegan or vegetarian and you value the environment, this documentary is an absolute must watch: Cowspiracy (executive produced by Leo DiCaprio & available on Netflix).