Could Hue vegan and vegetarian food be the best in Vietnam? The Hue vegan scene might even be the best in Southeast Asia. If you’re after authentic dishes created for locals to eat (instead of food made vegetarian for picky tourists), I think the answer is yes. The selection of Hue vegan restaurants is amazing!
Before you read any further, sign up to get your free printable guide to Hue vegan and vegetarian restaurants. It includes maps and the addresses of all the places I mention in this post!
Why is Hue Vegan Heaven?
Partly because Hue was, for centuries, the centre of Buddhist scholarship in Vietnam; Hue has 108 pagodas and 300 Buddhist temples. Most people in Hue still eat vegetarian 2-6 days per month to observe the special Buddhist lunar days.
Add to that the legend that the emperors, who resided in Hue from 1802 to 1945, instructed their chefs to serve a different dish for every day of the year. According to lore, there are 1,300 individual dishes that make up Hue’s cuisine and these includes hundreds of vegetarian dishes.
That’s great news for full-time vegans and vegetarian travellers. Even if you spend weeks in Hue, you’ll never tire of the variety of vegan foods and restaurants available.
So, if you’re a vegan visiting Hue, here’s…
Your Guide to Hue Vegan and Vegetarian Eats
Vespa Adventures Vegetarian Food Tour
My introduction to Hue vegan food falls into the capable hands of Duong, a tour guide for Vietnam Vespa Adventures.
Unfortunately, the incessant Hue rain has not stopped for days (November is not the best month to come here) and many of the places that would normally be on the tour are closed because the city is flooded. Vespa Adventures offers* to take me out anyway and I gladly accept.
After a welcome cocktail (an excellent way to start any tour), I am given a thick blue poncho and a bright orange helmet to wear. I hop onto the back of a lovingly restored vintage Vespa and we roll off down the soggy streets.
Duong takes me to perhaps the most famous vegetarian restaurant in the city…
3 Le Quy Don, Hue, Vietnam
Even if you have a good understanding of Vietnamese food in other parts of the country, the menu at Lien Hoa can be confusing. Many of the dishes are regional and the English translations are just this side of hilarious. For instance, there are about 10 dishes of “mecan”. I found out later that this is wheat gluten / seitan. Yum!
Expert dining tip: If you go to Lien Hoa at lunch, you can order the Com Dia, a plate of rice with assorted dishes of the day. It’s a great way to try a little of everything without over-ordering.
Duong starts me off with a plate of Banh Cuon. In Hanoi, Banh Cuon came as a small pile of paper thin rice noodles, topped with crispy fried onions.
Don’t miss my post about Hanoi Vegetarian Food: The Complete Guide for Vegetarians Visiting Hanoi →
In Hue, vegan Banh Cuon is a spring roll of thick rice noodle, stuffed with fresh veggies. The dip, a creamy peanut-infused soy paste, is what really makes the dish come alive.
Banh Loc is a tiny rice flour dumpling containing a smidgen of mushroom. Again, the dipping sauce brings out the flavour of what might otherwise be a bland dish.
The Banana Buds in Sesame was my favourite dish at Lien Hoa. It has a chewy texture and is used a stand-in for chicken on Buddhist days. The sesame adds a light nutty flavour. Eating it, I couldn’t imagine that this dish was somehow related to bananas!
No Vietnamese food tour is complete without tomato tofu. In Hue, tofu tends to be served in large fried hunks that give it a tough skin you have to bite through. It’s perfectly polite to pick the entire piece up with your chopsticks and take a chomp out of it – no need to cut it beforehand as we might do at home.
I’m not even sure the mixed mushroom dish Duong ordered was on the menu. That’s the pleasure of taking a food tour – you get to try things you might not discover on your own. These little slippery mushrooms were a chopstick challenge but tasted great when I managed to get them in my mouth.
After dinner, we zip around the city on the Vespa and I get to see the attractions of Hue by night. We then stop at a Che restaurant to explore the most popular Vietnamese desert.
Usually, Che is ordered in a single bowl and you just ask for (or point out) the items you’d like to add. So I can try everything, Duong orders each item in its own individual glass!
When I’ve had a taste of yellow mung beans, purple mashed taro, red adzuki beans, orange gelatinous cubes and all the other ingredients, I ask for a cup and mix it all together with a generous serving of ice to cut the sweetness. I do like Che in small quantities but agree with Duong’s assessment that it’s a little sweet!
More Hue Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants
50 Nguyen Cong Tru, Hue, Vietnam
A local’s favourite lunch spot, Thanh Lieu was packed with school kids and local workers when I arrived. There is no English on the simple menu here, so you either have to know your Hue food or take your chances.
I started with the Banh Beo, thick circles of rice noodle sprinkled with a flavourful yet mysterious topping. They were tasty but the sticky noodles were tricky to pull apart with chopsticks.
I also ordered a small Lau (hot pot), which is the speciality here. Even though I’ve had hot pot in China many times, the ritual differs slightly from place to place. Luckily, the locals who were seated next to me also ordered hot pot, so I could follow their lead.
How to eat hot pot in Hue. Hot pot is served on a table-top burner which the waiter will bring and light for you. He should also bring a large serving spoon, a basket of green herbs, a plate of cold noodles and a small bowl.
Let the soup come to a boil and then reduce the heat (there should be a knob or lever on the side of the burner) and let it simmer for a few minutes. Once the veggies are looking cooked, you can add a few herbs.
Finally, serve the cold noodles into the small bowl and then top with soup. Slurping is absolutely fine, as is bowing your head low above the bowl to avoid splashing the soup on you or your neighbours.
The Lau was more delicious than any noodle soup has a right to be and was the perfect lunch for a rainy winter day in Hue.
San May Vegetarian
8 Thanh Tinh St, Vi Da Village, Hue, Vietnam
Recommended to me by friends who come to Hue frequently (to run their awesome non-profit for Vietnamese kids, Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund), I was taken to San May by their local co-ordinator.
San May is hidden down a small street just north of the city center and it’s well worth the walk or cab ride to get here. Housed in a 100-year-old traditional house surrounded by lush gardens, it’s a little more upscale than most of the restaurants in town and is a great place for a romantic meal or family dinner.
My hosts ordered a variety of dishes and we ate family style. The most striking one was a tiny dish of fermented soy curd. With the consistency and tang of a very old blue cheese, mixed with a distinct flavour of something rotting, it is an acquired taste. I still can’t decide if I liked or loathed it but I know I want to try it again.
28 Ba Trieu, Hue, Vietnam
This was my favourite vegetarian restaurant in Hue. A little more expensive than your run-of-the-mill eatery, it has the benefit of being completely indoors, to keep you warm in the cool months and cool in the hot months.
Though the portions were a little small, the food was more flavourful and of a higher standard than in most restaurants in Vietnam. Make this one of your first meals in the city!
Quan Chay Tam Thien
03 Kiet 10 Nhat Le, Hue, Vietnam
At the opposite end of the scale is this family-run place just 150m from the Northwest gate of the citadel. If you’re looking for a quick vegetarian lunch and you want to eat like the locals do, stop in for lunch. Order the Com Dia and you will get what practically everyone else is having: a plate heaped with white rice and topped with four or five of the day’s special dishes. With a cup of cold tea, this feast costs 30,000 VND (about $1.50 US).
It’s not the most delicious food in the city, but it reminded me of the many places we ate in small untouristed villages during our bike trip. An excellent “authentic” experience.
Hue Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants I Want to Try Next Time
There are plenty of Hue vegan and vegetarian restaurants I didn’t get a chance to try. These are on my list for next time I go back.
- Thien Y – Dang Thai, 130/12 Dang Thai Than, Hue, Vietnam
- Bo De, 11 Le Loi, Hue, Vietnam
- Doa Sen Vang, Xuan 68 where it meets Le Van Huu (Happy Cow location is wrong I believe)
- Family/local Quan Chay restaurants, there are 2 on Ngo Duc Ke 22 where it meets Xuan 68
Sign up to get your free printable guide to Hue vegan and vegetarian restaurants.It includes maps and the addresses of all the places I mention in this post!
For even more vegan and vegetarian ideas in Hue, visit Happy Cow →
Where to Stay / Best Hotels in Hue, Vietnam
These are our recommendations for the best places to stay in Hue. All prices are approximate. Ratings come from Booking.com.
Rating 9.0, $10/night for a dorm bed, breakfast included
This is one of the most popular hostels in Hue and is located right in the center of the tourist district, so you won’t need to look far for restaurants or cafes. They have a 6-bed female dorm and a 10-bed mixed dorm and offer an evening family style meal that you can join for only 40,000 VND (less than $2).
Rating 9.0, $15 for a double, breakfast not included
We stayed here and loved it. I loved the Sunny B Hotel so much I stayed here twice. The rooms are big and include a balcony and excellent, professional plumbing in the bathroom. If you’ve travelled in Asia for a while you’ll know just how rare good plumbing is. Location is good, with the highly-rated Family Home Restaurant just across the street.
Note that the map location on Booking.com for Sunny B Hotel is incorrect (as of Jan 2017). Google Maps has the correct location, though it says Original Binh Duong 3 (Sunny B Hotel) for the name.
You can also try Sunny A Hotel, their sister property right across the alley.
Rating 9.8, $38-44 for a double, breakfast included
If you’re hankering after a little bit of inexpensive luxury, this place looks outstanding. It kind of makes me want to cry to think about the horrible room we got in India for the same price.
Rating 9.3, $100 for a waterfront double, $125 for a bungalow, breakfast included
Want to completely spoil yourself? Head out of Hue to this lagoon-side luxury resort. You can stay in a villa or bungalows and be treated to massage, Tai Chi, and yoga. Sigh. Let’s go there now.
If you visit any of these places in Hue or discover your own gems, please let us know in the comments!
♥ Happy eating, Jane & Stephen
*I was a guest of Vespa Adventures for this tour. Vespa Adventures offers a variety of food and cultural tours in Hue, Hoi An, Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap. Check their (fantastic) website for all the details.