It’s no secret that Vietnamese cuisine often makes use of meat and fish. An estimated 95 percent of Vietnamese households consume fish sauce, which made its way to the Southeast Asian nation via the Silk Road during the Middle Ages. Porky pâté, a French import brought over in the mid-19th century during Vietnam’s colonial period, is ubiquitous at bánh mì shops and carts. And phở, perhaps the country’s most famous dish, is classically made with meat, offal, and bones.
But tofu and seasonal vegetables are just as comfortable nestled into bánh mì, wrapped into bánh cuốn rolls, bobbing amid a tangle of rice noodles in phở, or topping a breakfast bowl of cháo. Even beyond the world of plant proteins, many Vietnamese recipes can be made vegetarian or vegan with easy modifications.
For example, use a few drops of light soy sauce in place of fish sauce, or try this versatile vegan “fishy” sauce alternative if you crave more funky flavor. Commercial versions of vegan fish sauce are easily available online, as are umami-packed condiments such as the meaty-but-meat-free Maggi seasoning (which is also a European import to Vietnam and frequently appears in bánh mì). Meanwhile, Vietnamese cuisine experts such as Uyen Luu and Andrea Nguyen have been pushing forward vegetarian Viet recipes and techniques through their cookbooks, which will provide you with even more inspiration once you work through the 17 recipes below.