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Ho Chi Minh City goes vegan ahead of Lunar New Year holiday

Ho Chi Minh City goes vegan ahead of Lunar New Year holiday

Wednesday, December 28, 2022, 10:34 GMT+7
Ho Chi Minh City goes vegan ahead of Lunar New Year holiday
Consumers shop for vegetarian products at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thao Thuong / Tuoi Tre

Ho Chi Minh City’s vegetarian food market is all hustle and bustle ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday, with many of the city’s residents hoping the change in diet will help purify their bodies for the coming year.

Traditionally, Buddhists in Vietnam reserve vegetarianism for the annual Vu Lan Festival, celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month to honor deceased ancestors.

This year, however, many Ho Chi Minh City residents are looking to make vegetarianism a much larger part of their diets.

On Hai Ba Trung Street in District 1, a large grocery store with high-end locally-made and imported products has been steadily increasing its stock of vegetarian products to meet such demand.  

Mushroom sausages and shredded shiitake seem to be particularly popular despite selling for the relatively high price of VND70,000 (US$3) per 200 grams.

“Customers choose healthy foods, like vegetables and vegetable proteins, during the Tet season in order to purify their bodies," an employee at the grocery store explained.

“Some customers even ask us to prepare [vegan] Tet gift baskets.”

A grocery store on Cach Mang Thang Tam Street in District 3 has seen a similar rush of customers in search of vegetarian Tet gifts.

At this store, gift baskets filled with vegan protein, vegetables, milk tea, turmeric milk, and brown rice powder sell for VND1.2-1.5 million ($51-64) each.

“My children and I are on a diet. Even though it is Tet, [which is less than three weeks away], we still want to enjoy delicious meals,” said Nguyen Thi Ly, a 42-year-old who recently visited the aforementioned grocery store.

“Vegetarian food prices are reasonable despite inflation.” 

It is not just specialty stores that are looking to jump on the vegetarian bandwagon. Large supermarkets are stocking their shelves with meat-free and animal-free products as well.

According to Le Quang Anh, the manager of a supermarket on Vu Huy Tan Street in Binh Thanh District, 'vegetarian' has become a buzzword for food marketers.

“We sell sliced vegan 'beef,' vegan 'ribs,' and sliced vegan 'pork' for VND56,000-58,000 [$2.4-2.5] per 150 grams," he said. 

“Our selection isn’t as diversified as vegan food stores, but our products are still in high demand, especially ahead of Tet.” 

Eyeing exports

Nguyen Lam Vien, the owner of a vegan restaurant in District 1, shared that vegan 'meat' made from young jackfruit is particularly popular.

“I decided to start my restaurant because the vegan food market is growing and people are looking for alternatives to animal products,” Vien said.

Vien also noted that Vietnam’s standing as a country where agriculture plays a significant role in the economy puts it in a unique position to provide plant-based food for other countries.

“The market is huge. We plan to open vegan food restaurants which offer meals to both religious and non-religious people," Vien said.

“We also hope to export our model to India and Thailand because we’ve had customers from both countries place orders for our young jackfruit-based food."

Prioritizing food safety

Most popular meat-based dishes have plant-based alternatives, including meatless stewed beef, rib ragout, and chicken curry.

These are typically made from mushrooms, flour, young jackfruit, and other kinds of fruits and vegetables.

Most vegetarian dishes for sale at supermarkets and grocery stores in Vietnam are produced locally, but some are imported from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

According to Pham Khanh Phong Lan, head of the Food Safety Management Board of Ho Chi Minh City, precooked vegan food products can be easily bought, but it is hard to know if they are safe. 

Lan advised customers to familiarize themselves with vegetarian products and brands before buying in order to ensure their personal safety.

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Thanh Ha - Thao Thuong / Tuoi Tre News


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