As a half-Vietnamese kid, I spent my childhood eating a lot of Vietnamese food—and I mean a lot: at home, at family gatherings, and at restaurants every Sunday afternoon. In Vietnamese culture, food represents family, community, and comfort. It’s a way of showing love, and what better way to show love than by leaving animals off your plate?
The awesome thing about Vietnamese food is that most of it is already vegan! Plant-based food is everywhere in Vietnam, and we even have a word for vegetarian: chay. Because it’s so common in the culture, you don’t have to sacrifice taste or flavor to stick to your ideals. Check out some super-easy tips for ordering or making some of my childhood favorites:
Traditionally, phở is a rice noodle soup made with a beef broth base and meats, but in the meat industry, cows are denied everything that is natural and important to them and often endure beatings and other forms of abuse until the day they’re slaughtered. Saving cows by making this bowl vegan-friendly is as easy as one, two, three! Substitute the liquids with a vegetable broth, and you can still get that hearty flavor with soy sauce or a fishless sauce. Add tofu or vegan meats and a variety of vegetables (such as bean sprouts, Thai basil, carrots, mushrooms) to spruce up the texture.
Imagine a fresh noodle salad, rolled up in thin rice paper (kind of like a burrito), ready for dipping in a peanut or fishless sauce … and BAM! You’ve got yourself a spring roll. They’re so refreshing and filling that I could literally eat a dozen.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BEoxzycPx5B/ This is a delicious French baguette sandwich with crunchy veggies inside. Get your fix on with one of these filled with the plant-based protein of your choice (I love marinated tofu, but shredded vegan chicken or pork works well, too), pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, cilantro, chili peppers, and eggless mayo. Banh Mi is a quick and easy grab-and-go lunch if you’re on the run.
An omelet? Nah, we don’t eat chicken periods here! These “sizzling pancakes” are a very thin, very crispy rice flour crêpe filled with mung beans and tofu and topped with greens, herbs, and fishless sauce. They’re so savory, and who can possibly say no to crunchy noms?
Vietnamese iced coffee is my fave. It’s so strong and super-aromatic, and it satisfies my daily caffeine requirement. This drink is made from a Vietnamese dark-roast coffee and brewed individually with a metal French drip filter. Usually, condensed milk is added, but dairy foods cause a lifetime of suffering for mother cows, whose babies are taken from them so that we can drink their milk, so to save a cow, try condensed coconut milk instead.
Some quick things to keep in mind before you start ordering or making vegan Vietnamese food:
- Sprinkle herbs on everything! Keep your fridge stocked with herbs like cilantro, mint, and green onions. These fresh herbs add another layer to your dishes, as any condiment would. And they make your Instagram posts a little more colorful.
- Pack on some heat: Spice up your dishes with some sriracha. (If you’re really adventurous, heat up the room with hot sauce paste.) You can always adjust for your taste preferences, but that kick definitely gives your food some more zest.
- Say no to fish sauce: Vietnamese food is known for its pungent aromas, but some items contain fish sauce, and we want to avoid that because fish are intelligent, have their own personalities, feel pain when hooks sink into their mouths, and suffocate when fishers pull them from their underwater homes. Instead, make your own cruelty-free version. Or try using dipping alternatives such as soy sauce, sriracha, or mushroom oyster sauce.
- Use these easy substitutions: Try adding tofu or just plain old veggies to your dishes. You can even swap out meats for veggie beef, chicken, and fish (available at your local Asian grocery store).
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