[Saigon Times Daily]
One would imagine that in a society where roughly 85% of the people
are practicing Buddhists, vegetarian restaurants could be found on
every corner. While this may be true in some parts of Asia, it is
certainly not the case in Saigon, where eateries specializing in com
chay are few and far between.
Exceptions to this general trend appear on the first and fifteenth of
each Lunar Calendar month, when all Buddhists shy away from meat. On
these particularly auspicious days, nearly all workers' lunch
establishments (com binh dan) serve vegetarian options.
Whereas vegetarian cuisine in the West often means a bland plate of
grilled vegetables or strange faux meat products, Vietnamese
vegetarian fare sticks to familiar flavors and ingredients. Unlike
scientifically derived products such as Tofurkey and Boca Burgers,
which tend to leave eaters feeling deprived, the fresh vegetables and
soy products employed at com chay restaurants are skillfully
transformed into wholly satisfying delights.
One of the best features of vegetarian establishments in town is their
extensive menus. From rice entrees to noodle soups, it seems that
every Vietnamese dish can be deliciously vegetarian-ized.
For those seeking meatless fare for dietary reasons, religious
leanings, or just personal preference, there are a handful of well-run
and exciting Vietnamese vegetarian restaurants in the city worth
getting to know. Just a warning, there is a good chance that you will
be dining next to a group of Buddhist nuns or monks while digging into
a hearty plate of meatless goodness.
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