VietNamNet Bridge – Vegetarianism is not about religion or something complicated, vegetarianism is about keeping fit and staying healthy. These days vegetarian meals can be a fine culinary art. Hoang Ho finds out
Hearty and healthy: A really fresh and healthy bread dish made with vegetarian ingredients. – Photos: Ho Hoang
After getting tired of constantly eating meat, I decided to try something new. On a whim, I decided to give vegetarian food a try, so opening my computer I found that Minh Chay was a highly rated vegetarian restaurant in Ha Noi.
On Tripadvisor, a number of foreign diners had already left glowing compliments about Minh Chay, like “Awesome restaurant, I love everything about this place, the decorations, the staff and especially the food was amazing”, “Fantastic cafe for a vegan”, or “Not a vegan but I enjoyed it”.
Those reviews gave me a really positive impression of Minh Chay and I was eager to try out the food. Furthermore, this restaurant received a certificate from Happy Cow – the leading association for vegetarians around the world. Impressive!
Minh Chay has two addresses, on 56B Hang Gai Street and 9 Au Trieu Street. As a chilled guy and fan of quiet places, Minh Chay on Au Trieu seemed to be a perfect choice. On the way in, I was impressed with the small but elegant street, and felt it was a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown. The interior of the restaurant was equally as impressive, with bright and fresh décor, and great service.
When I first entered, I was amazed by the peaceful space they had created. On the left stood a long table with high chairs and a wide view on the outside world.
When I asked about the decoration, Nguyen Ngoc Minh, owner and founder of Minh Chay explained: “We did it by ourselves. With most of the materials in wood and original yellow light, this place had a clean and peaceful aesthetic. We put up pictures of famous vegetarian celebrities like Brad Pitt, Leonardo Di Caprio, Vietnamese singer Ho Quynh Huong and more surrounding the Minh Chay logo. You can see we have used two main colours: green and white, representing the fresh food and elegant atmosphere of Minh Chay.”
Earthy eats: A clay pot full of fresh mushrooms.
Following a waitress’s recommendation, I chose the steamed mushrooms with lemongrass (VND109.000) as my appetizer. It is one of Minh Chay’s most popular dishes, combining oyster mushrooms, lemongrass and lime leaves to create a delicious steamed dish. When I opened the lid, the pleasant smell of lemongrass wafted out and I could feel my mouth watering. The first bite of the mushroom was fresh and tasty. Even better is to try it with the dipping sauce, made with vinegar, lime leaves, chillies and garlic.
For my second dish I ordered bread with pate (VND99.000). As a big fan of bread, I was really looking forward to try this as well as to find out how veggie bread tastes. I wasn’t disappointed. Although it includes pate and sausage, as well as the french fries, tomatoes and boiled vegetables, it is still a vegan dish as the sausage and pate are made of cashews, almonds, walnuts, and bean curd sheets. The flavours of the dish were fresh and I felt the bread was a wonderfully healthy choice.
After finishing the delicious bread, I opened the menu again and turned to Vietnamese traditional food. There are plenty of tasty dishes like crispy fried noodles (VNĐ89.000), nem cuon Ha Noi, and fresh veggie rolls (VND89.000). But I chose the mushrooms in a clay pot (VND109.000) because it sounded unique. This dish included rice, fresh mushrooms, salty raw vegetables with healthy, buttery lotus seeds mixed together to create a wonderful mushroom rice inside a small pot. This combination allowed you to taste the sweetness of the rice while not overpowering the nutty flavour of the lotus seeds, and the freshness of the mushrooms.
After these choices I was already feeling full and satisfied, but decided to see what was offered for dessert. I chose the “pumpkin flan” (VND29.000 ) recommended by Minh.
He said the dish is like caramel but very “special”. When I bit into the sweet flan it melted in my mouth and was a wonderful experience. When it melted, I could sense the sweetness of pumpkin. It was certainly the best caramel I have ever tasted before.
Speaking about his passion, Minh shared several interesting stories about his restaurant and his veggie lifestyle: “I became a vegetarian when I was seven. It just came to me for no reason and since then, I have been eating veggie food. You will never know how healthy the food is if you don’t try it. Many people say that vegetarianism is something complicated and has a connection to religion, they are wrong. Vegetarianism is about knowing your body and having a clear idea of staying healthy. It has become a new lifestyle followed by more and more people, and Minh Chay wants to be a part of this lifestyle by providing high quality veggie food. We make sure all our vegetables are certificated by Vietgap (Vietnamese Good Agriculture Practice).”
After finishing my meal, I was very satisfied, not only with the wonderful food and a healthy mind, but also understanding a new lifestyle and a real culinary art.
Minh Chay restaurant: a delightful spot for vegetarians:
Address: 9 Au Trieu and 56B Hang Gai
Comments: Giving you a whole new perspective on vegetarian cuisine.
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