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    Vietnam cities experience a vegan surge

    Vegetarian food, mostly vegan, has become increasingly popular in Vietnam over the last few years. All major cities, including the capital, have many restaurants that serve vegan food, and their number is increasing.
    Vietnam cities experience a vegan surge

    There are many reasons that more and more people are turning vegan, even in Vietnam, where daily meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner, invariably contain meat. In fact, all iconic dishes in the national cuisine, whether it is Pho or Bun or Banh my, are meat-based.

    For many Vietnamese, a vegan diet is traditionally confined to two sacred Buddhist days a month, an observance of compassion for all sentient beings.

    But increasing numbers of people are also turning to a plant-based diet for health reasons, and are strengthened in their resolve by environmental considerations.

    With its abundance of delicious vegetables, fruits and roots, Vietnam has all the conditions to cater to vegans.
    Vietnam cities experience a vegan surge

    Vegans can find in Việt Nam a variety of vegetarian dishes. However, the most common vegan dishes are made of đậu tương (soybeans). Apart from tofu, steamed and fried, soybeans lend themselves to tương đậu nành (soya paste), chao (fermented tofu), chả  luạ chay (veggie Vietnamese ham) and a wide variety of other dips and dishes.
    Since soybeans are nutritious, rich in protein and calcium, and non-fattening, they are a good replacement for animal meat. They are also said to be useful in treating several illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
    Vegans can also find in Việt Nam many dishes that look like they’re made with real meat. For example, chicken legs are made of citronella stems with a special tofu wrapping that even has the texture of meat. Barbecued pork chops, beef wrapped in la lot leaves, stewed chicken, steamed fish – the list goes on and on.
    The faux meat dishes are consumed more in the South than in the North, says Phạm Tuấn Hải, a judge in the Masterchef Vietnam reality television show.

    Veggie histories: Historically, vegetarian food first became popular during the reign of the Ly Dynasty in 11th century. However, it reached its zenith as a important part of royal cuisine during the long rule of the Nguyễn Dynasty since early 19th century, when Huế emerged as a Buddhist centre.
    “There were strict rules on picking the right ingredients, cooking and offering vegetarian food to royalty during the reign of the Nguyễn Dynasty,” says vegetarian food expert Hồ Đắc Thiếu Anh of Huế.
    Vietnam cities experience a vegan surge

    In all pagodas in Huế, every month, on the first and full moon days of the month, monks and nuns make vegetarian meals to feed the devotees.

    Restaurants that normally sell non-vegetarian food used to close on these two days or change their menu to serve vegetarian food.

    Most Huế residents turn vegetarian during the first and full moon days of the month and on other festive days. The first day of the New Lunar Year, for instance, is a day of vegetarian meals for many families in the city.

    In comparison to Hue and Ho Chi Minh City, vegetarian food has been late in coming to Hanoi, but even here, the difference from a few years ago is apparent. Like other provinces in the north, vegetarian food was mostly served in pagodas, but there are now several dozen places in the capital city that serve just vegan food.

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