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Jun 2, 2010 06:45 AM

Best Vegan Vietnamese?

I've lived in LA all my life and have only recently started exploring the versatile cuisine it has to offer. This has sort of been a culture shock for me, and it seems that every time I try something new and delicious, I become obsessed with it. My current obsession: freshy rolls. So delicious!!! The problem is, most Vietnamese restaurants around my part of town make them with pork or shrimp, and I am a veggie. Anyone know of good vegan-friendly, yet traditional/authentic places? Thanks!

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  1. Hi miettecrumb,

    If you're willing to drive south to Little Saigon, there's Au Lac, which is a pure Vietnamese Vegan restaurant. Some nice Spring Rolls and some of the most impressive Vietnamese "Fish" (made from Soy) dishes I've tried so far. It's actually a bit closer than the heart of Little Saigon (closer to the 405), and note they close on Tuesdays.


    Au Lac Gourmet Vegetarian
    16563 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

    9 Replies
    1. re: exilekiss

      Au Lac is the best in my book, specifically the Spring Rolls there. Although, they seem to be catering more towards Westerners lately (ie. $$).

      Vietnamese vegetarians usually flock to Van Hanh or Bo De Tam. The former, I believe, is owned by buddhist monks and ran by volunteers.

      Van Hanh Restaurant
      9455 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA 92683

      1. re: Tkn

        I tend to trust a place operated by monks. Recently the site had links to "vegan" restaurants that had food with meat ingredients.

        1. re: apple7blue

          The imported mock meats used by many of these restaurants are not usually made in-house, and in many cases, the stated ingredients aren't complete or accurate. So there are some possible issues, even if the folks in the kitchen have the best of intentions. See, for example, this article:

          It sounds like there have been some positive changes w/r/t labeling etc. since this article, but still worth considering (even for those who aren't worried about the general wisdom about eating overly processed food).

          In some cases, the restaurant does make at least some of their own meat analogues. Bean Sprouts in Arcadia claims to make their tofu eel in-house, for example. And standard wheat gluten, fried tofu, etc. shouldn't really be a problem. But the more processed soy stuff tends not to be made in-house more often than not.

          Bean Sprouts
          103 E Huntington Dr, Arcadia, CA 91006

      2. re: exilekiss

        I agree. Au Lac is the best Vietnamese restaurant in SoCal.

        1. re: karen321

          Au Lac is pretty good, but I don't think it's even the best *vegetarian* Vietnamese restaurant in Southern California, and I think you would have a hard time making a case for it being the best Vietnamese food overall.

          Also, the whole raw food menu there is kind of random.

        2. re: exilekiss

          NO NO NO! At Au Lac some dishes have Vietnamese names but are not Vietnamese, or at best hit and miss.

          (To be clear, Exilekiss and I are both talking about the one in Fountain Valley, not "Au Lac Pure Vegetarian" 9741 Bolsa Ave in Westminster)

          Other diners looked happy, but my table was profoundly disappointed. We each ordered noodle soup. We smiled when the abundant platters of herb add-ins came out. No, wait, it is a cruel farce: one platter had shredded lettuce and some bean sprouts, the other had two kinds of shredded cabbage; both had three jalapeno slices and a lemon (not lime) wedge. Not an herb to be found. Anywhere. No basil (Thai or otherwise). Never mind exotic stuff like perilla, rau ram, ngo om, ngo gai, etc. No mint. No mint, for the love of Pete! Not even cilantro. (Cilantro is pretty inexpensive, 3 bunches/$1?)

          I don't pretend to be an expert but have never used LETTUCE as a soup add-in.

          We speculated the chef had once seen a Vietnamese meal from afar, just was fuzzy on the details. ("A big plate of...something green was served with the meal.")

          One of the soups at least tasted pretty good. Maybe we unluckily ordered all their weakest dishes. One friend sighted cilantro, described as a total of two boiled leaves. We left hungry and sad. One at the table actually was Vietnamese vegetarian of all things and was more upset than all the rest of us.

          Seem to recall it was much better years ago. Maybe a change in ownership?

          It might be good, fresh, etc. Surprisingly decent portions. Just don't call it Vietnamese. That was our main beef.

          1. re: rat

            It looks like they got a new chef in '01 (which, according to their site, is when they started adding all the raw food stuff). I believe my first couple of visits there were probably before that, maybe in 2000. Seems to me like things have gone down hill in recent years, though I think I have a lot more basis for comparison now too, so may just be my perspective changing.

            Regarding your bad experience with the soups, I don't think soup / noodle soup has ever been their main area of specialty. I think their rice dishes tend to be better. But I do remember getting fresh herbs there in the past, at least to go with banh xeo.

            1. re: rat

              Hi rat,

              Wow, thanks for the report back. I haven't been to Au Lac since I visited my Vegan friend and we went there... wow, ~6-7 years ago. They may have switched chefs going by your experience. We had a great time with some pretty good cooked dishes.

              1. re: exilekiss

                The restaurant is now completely different. They ripped out the banquettes and put in a completely new decor, along with a bar that houses a silent raw chef and a rack of potions. It is NOTHING like ti was before. I thought the food was decent before, and I like the food now, but it is no longer what most people would describe as "authentic" vegan Vietnamese food. That said, I think their vegan pho is pretty tasty, though unbelievably expensive at around $9.

          2. Also just as a reminder, if you get those spring rolls, the dip they provide is also usually made with fish sauce.

            4 Replies
            1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

              There is actually vegetarian versions of everything now, including the fish sauce. I have no idea what or how it's made, but it tastes quite faithful to the original.

              1. re: Tkn

                Yes, I know. I was merely just putting the reminder out in case one ends up at a regular restaurant and orders "vegan" spring rolls only to find that the accompanying sauce is not so.

                1. re: taiwanesesmalleats

                  I would inquire very carefully about fish sauce, shrimp paste, and other fish ingredients in any non-vegetarian Vietnamese, Thai, or other SE Asian place, even if the dish is described as vegetarian, and even if the restaurant has a big sign about how they feature "vegetarian" food in their window. Unless you are at a specifically vegetarian restaurant, they may consider that it's Ok to put fish-based sauces in your "vegetarian" food.

                  I don't know many restaurants that use the bottled vegetarian fish sauce anyway - most mix their own, or just substitute some sort of peanut sauce.

            2. Vinh Loi Tofu in Reseda is Vegan Vietnamese.

              Vinh Loi Tofu
              18625 Sherman Way Ste 101, Reseda, CA 91335

              2 Replies
              1. re: Jelly71

                And is great!

                (Kevin is also an awesome guy - really fun to talk to!)

                1. re: taloyd

                  and is astonishingly cheap!
                  absolutely unbelievable price/quality/quantity ratios.

              2. Have a look at:

                These threads mostly focus on the SGV area, but there is some mention of places in LA proper, Orange County, and the SFV.

                If you are strictly vegan, you may want to avoid imported mock-meats, which often contain small amounts of dairy, or, less commonly, egg. Some have even been shown to contain some amount of meat.

                Your best options by far will be in OC. Probably best veggie pho I've had is probably the one at Thuyen Vien.
                Not sure if they're up and running at the new location or not, though.

                There are some more westernized places which offer vegetarian options but they won't be as traditional. Viet Noodle Bar in Atwater has a few good veggie options, and is probably one of the better places that caters to a non-Vietnamese crowd.

                Viet Noodle Bar
                3133 1 2 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039

                Thuyen Vien
                1740 S. Euclid St, Anaheim, CA 92802

                1. Thanks everybody! I will check out Vinh Loi Tofu & make note of the others for sure. As I recall, I believe I read something about it a while ago on a fantastic vegan food blog, & it was highly recommended. Any others, however? Jw..

                  Vinh Loi Tofu
                  18625 Sherman Way Ste 101, Reseda, CA 91335

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: miettecrumb

                    I think you made the right choice. I've been to all the places mentioned and of them, vinh loi is probably the most authentic viwtnamese, and the menu is definitely all vegan. Van hanh is terrible, imho. Au lac on brookhurst used to be a relatively low key, if unexciting vegan viet place, and now it's something totally different. Thuyen vien was a good vwgan vietnamese place, but it recently closed. Again, good call.

                    1. re: miettecrumb

                      when you go to vinh loi tofu, you'll see that most of their items are very inexpensive.
                      this will allow you to order practically half the things on their menu without going broke.
                      this approach has repeatedly worked out well for me . . .