Zoe Osborne and Mike Palumbo do the rounds of Saigon's noodle soup joints and search out the best vegan options in the city.

 

Ho Chi Minh City has a reputation for delicious cuisine, especially for its bowls of hot, steaming noodle soup. Many meaty favourites have vegan equivalents, from mi quang to bun Hue, and they can be very flavoursome.

  

Quan Com Chay Tin Nghia

9 Tran Hung Dao, Q1

Open 10am to 10pm

 

This spot is right in the centre of town, and as long as its doors are open, it is always busy. The menu is in Vietnamese and in English, and the clientele are a mix of locals and foreigners.

 

The hu tieu here is a light, gently flavoured bowl of fresh, steamed vegetables in a clear broth with tofu and long, stringy hu tieu noodles. If you like to eat your soup with dipping sauce, there is soy sauce on the table. While there are numerous noodle options available, you can also order just a broth on its own and an optional bowl of rice on the side.

 

Quan Com Chay Tin Nghia’s iced tea is one of its biggest draws, because it is so strange. It comes with ice flecked with suspicious bits of brown, and it’s not until the cubes melt that you realise they are not dirty, but made of tea. Your meal comes with wet wipes, and while prices here are not cheap they are not expensive either.

 

Cost: Prices range from VND45,000 to VND308,000

Parking: At the front of the restaurant

 


 

Here & Now Vegetarian

89E Nguyen Cong Hoan, Phu Nhuan

Open 7.30am to 9.30pm

 

Tucked away in a secret corner of one of Phu Nhuan’s prettier alleyways, Here & Now is not easy to find. This atmospheric restaurant is beautifully designed — its decor has a clear Buddhist influence, the air seems sweeter inside than it is outside and its light, fresh food is served in rustic, hand-painted china.

 

Here & Now seems to be a popular lunch spot with Phu Nhuan’s Buddhist monks, who sit among groups of white-collar Vietnamese. There is a variety of noodle soups available, but the bun Hue and mi quang are house favourites. These hot, light bowls of vegetable, tofu and imitation meat leave you full and satisfied but not stuffed to the brim. Each soup is served with its own careful mix of crisp, fresh herbs and bean sprouts, and there are condiments on the table.

 

Cost: Soups are VND35,000 per bowl, and iced tea is complimentary

Parking: At the front of the restaurant

 


 

Com Chay Loi Trinh

Cho Thi Nghe, Binh Thanh

Open from early morning to about 6pm

 

On the edge of a bustling walkway in the middle of a market, this vegetarian joint has a sense of constant movement. You don’t linger here, and yet the food is so tasty that it’s the kind of place you would want to hang around in. The food is also prepared right in front of you, with the ingredients laid out in neat bowls, broth in huge steaming vats, sauces flying everywhere and a fry pan on constant heat.

 

It’s hard to know what you will order before you sit down, because the menu here changes each day according to what the owners can buy to cook. One staple, the hu tieu, is a light dish with the usual watery broth. It’s deliciously salty but with that slight, sweet tang that southern Vietnamese food is well known for. Ask for some herbs to eat with your food and help yourself to soy sauce, chilli, sauted chilli in garlic and other condiments, then step back out into the throng of a market in full swing.

 

Cost: VND20,000 per bowl and VND2,000 for iced tea

Parking: Out the front of the market, VND4,000

 


 

Pho Chay Nhu

54 Truong Quyen, Q3

Open 9am to 10pm

 

There is no other vegan restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City more famous for its pho than this one. That being said, the hu tieu here is just as tasty and many other types of noodle soups are on offer from mi quang to bun, as well as vegetarian broken rice. Everything is laid out in a series of displays so you can watch the cooks as they put your meal together.

 

Each table here is decked with sauces. Little bowls for dipping sauce are provided, and your meal will be served with the correct combination of lime, fresh chilli and a garden of mint, Thai basil and other typical herbs. The restaurant’s iced tea is that gorgeous lotus mix that you always want to find but rarely get to drink.

 

Although this spot is very popular with locals and expats alike, especially at lunch time, the small street on which is sits is quaint and quiet, with a few coffee shops sprawling out onto the road and plenty of space to walk.

 

Cost: soups are around VND30,000 per bowl depending on what you order, and iced tea is VND2,000

Parking: On the other side of the road. Don’t forget to lock your bike

 


 

Bep Chay Pham Hong Phuoc

218A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3

Open 6am to 8.30pm

 

This is a tiny one-room eatery in the middle of an alleyway, known for its noodles and for its friendly family service. The kitchen here dishes out a number of other foods too, from banh chung to bun thit nuong, but noodle soups are its legacy and once you’ve had one, it’s easy to see why.

 

The mi quang is a wide bowl of bright yellow soup with colourful toppings, from crispy sesame crackers to fresh, green herbs. It is beautiful to photograph. Its broth is quite thick for a noodle soup and full of flavour, and the bowl comes with a plate of greens to mix in with your meal.

 

Another soup to try here is the pho, a light and sweet mix of noodles and soy that also comes with herbs, from Thai basil to Vietnamese mint. There is a range of condiments on the table, including a rather strange vegan fish sauce that somehow manages to smell fishy without having ever seen a fish.

 

Cost: Soups cost VND30,000 to VND35,000

Parking: Close by. No tickets are offered but there is a security guard

 


 

Com Chay Phuong Tinh

215 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh, Binh Thanh

Open 10am to 10pm

 

Set back from a busy street, this restaurant extends from behind a display of vegetarian dishes and broken rice. But although com chay is popular item on their menu, their noodle soups are just as tasty. Three soups are on offer — mi quang, bun Hue and pho.

 

The inside of this place is set up a little like an American diner, with high-backed chairs lining each wall and a long walkway in the middle. There is a lot of bright green, and Buddha images, references and prayers hang on the walls.Here, a bowl of bun Hue comes with a plate of fresh herbs, lemon, chilli and a range of condiments already on the table. The soup itself is light, with fake beef and a generous helping of noodles.

 

Cost: A bowl of bun Hue costs VND20,000, and drinks vary from VND4,000 for iced tea to VND11,000 for a coke

Parking: At the front of the restaurant

 

Zoe Osborne

Born in England and raised in Australia, Zoe was taught how to travel from a young age. At barely 19 she left for India and a year later she left again, finding herself in Vietnam with a bit of cash and a plan to make a plan. Now a staff writer for Word Vietnam, Zoe counts her blessings every day as she wakes up to another fascinating story and another bowl of hu tieu. You can find her on Facebook at @zoeosborne.journalist.

Website: www.zosborne.com

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