I was a bit nervous if I would be able to find gluten free in Vietnam, but I did. I will help guide you through the food scene in the country and give lots of tips and recommendations based on the month I spent there.
As I walked around the streets in Vietnam, I saw many umbrellas with little plastic tables and stools underneath them. These are filled with Vietnamese people hanging and eating at all times of the day. I am quite short and fit right into the little plastic chairs, but if you are tall you may look pretty funny in an under-sized chair. This is all part of the experience, so no matter where you fall, enjoy it.
Biggest Mistake When Travelling with Celiac
A big mistake I see is that people are drawn to places that they recognize from back home. When the western style restaurants offer burgers, fries and pizza, they will not be the best option for you. You can imagine the cross contamination nightmare in these kitchens.
Getting outside of your comfort zone and trying the local cuisine is the best thing you can do. It is possible and worth it.
Vietnamese Gluten Food Phrases
Based on my research of Vietnamese cuisine before I went, it was possible to find some food from traditional restaurants as they tended to use rice noodles and soy sauces which were naturally gluten free in the south of Vietnam.
The north of Vietnam may use soy sauce with wheat in it but the south used a mix of sauces, some naturally gluten free and some not. I knew I had to focus on the sauces and getting any meal made in a clean wok.
GF TIP: Find out the gluten free brands of soya sauce. Then you can ask the restaurant to show you which sauce they use and you may recognize the brand.
Wheat – lúa mì
Barley – lúa mạch
Rye- lúa mạch đen
Hydrolyzed wheat protein – protein lua mi
Egg noodles with wheat – nui
Bread – banh mi
Map of Vietnam
How to Travel Gluten Free in Vietnam
I have several tips and guidance to give you about how to live and travel in Vietnam on a gluten free diet. Read on to get inspired.
Know Cooking Basics
The understanding of celiac disease is not very high in the country. I did not find people understood what it was in general or in the service industry. You will have to get comfortable with not being able to have an in-depth conversation with people at restaurants about celiac disease.
This is where your good old cooking skills come in handy. Once you easily make meals at home, you can try batch cooking your favourite foods and you will be set. You can spend less time in the kitchen and eat healthy, safe food.
While there is less prevalence of celiac or allergies in the Vietnamese population, there are some benefits to their traditional cuisine, for more, keep reading to find out.
Packing Your Celiac Suitcase
You should pack some snacks in your suitcase. It might be a few loaves of bread, some crackers or granola bars. Having those extra items will help you out, especially on shorter trips. If you are spending more time in one spot like me, then you will have to explore the supermarkets. I am always surprised at the different products that I find.
Travelling to Vietnam
We flew from Thailand to Vietnam on Air Asia. I packed a meal for the flight and happily ate it on the flight even though there were signs everywhere stating that I could not bring outside food onto the plane.
Check out this post for my experience with Gluten Free on Air Asia. Always confirm a gluten free meal and pack a back-up meal for flights. Here are some transportation options:
Transportation in Vietnam
The country is large and transportation takes longer than you think if you are traveling from north to south or vice versus.
You can use Grab, hire a car for day trips, use the train or rent a motorbike.
The driving in Vietnam is crazy! Cross walks mean nothing and you will have to strategically get across the streets in Vietnam. Our first night in Da Nang, we almost gave up getting across a busy street. Then, two Russian ladies helped us get across. You have to enter and dodge the cars and scooters. We did get better at this and have learned how to get across the busiest of streets and learned a new skill!
Be a Cook in Your Own Kitchen
After your flight is booked then you can start figuring out where you are going to stay. Like I mentioned, the driving is pretty hectic, so we did not want to drive much. We chose a central spot that was close to our daily activities.
It will be a great find if you can actually find a place with an oven, because they don’t use it much in Vietnam. Although, having a stove top and microwave are typically included in the kitchen. Find something in the area you want to be in and message the hosts to double check all the kitchen appliances included if it is not clear from the website.
We even had success with asking them to add a few extra pots and pans. They are people pleasers, so they wil do their best to accomodate you.
Shopping at Local Markets in Vietnam
We were a 10 minute walk from a huge local market where they sold everything you can imagine. Every city will offer extensive fresh fruits and vegetables in their local markets.
You can really explore the local culture by shopping where locals go. I think we were over-charged a little bit compared to others. We still thought the prices were fairly low for the amount of fresh produce that we were getting.
The different fruits were amazing and I tried everything that I had never seen before. The one caution would be the bamboo shoots. They have high levels of arsenic, so stay away from trying that.
For meats, I mainly purchased fresh fish, because I was a little scared about the hygiene of the other meat counters. Maybe you will be more adventurous than me.
They even had seamstresses there to make you clothing. You could walk away with custom pieces of clothing and your food for the next few days. I always loved our market adventures.
What Kind of Gluten Free Food is in Vietnam?
Shopping at Vietnam Supermarkets
We purchased meat at the supermarkets because I was not adventurous enough to buy it at the local markets. I also like to snack on junk food and I am a coffee addict, so we would frequent the supermarket to get these basic items.
I was able to find some gluten free items at Annam Gourmet, so you can see what they have if you are in the area.
I used my trusty Nima Gluten Sensor to test food products to see if there was gluten in them. See below for the products that I tested that you can eat while you are there.
Do Rice Noodles have Gluten?
Rice noodles, as indicated in the name are made from rice, not anything else. If you are eating gluten free you can safely eat rice noodles. Back home, I was eating rice noodles all the time and they have a lot of these noodles in Vietnam, so you can definitely indulge while you are here.
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Get the Best Gluten Free Travel Guide and More….
- Discover the Best Way to Travel Gluten Free.
- 55 colored pages.
- Invaluable resources.
- Fillable worksheets.
- Spanish AND French celiac restaurant cards.
Is Pho Gluten Free?
You will see ‘pho’ everywhere in Vietnam and you will wonder – does pho have gluten? The answer is no, it is purely made from rice. Pho will arrive to you in a soup and you will have the option to add sauces to add flavour. While the pho itself you will be able to eat, you will obviously have to pay attention to the sauces.
I had pho all the time while I was in Vietnam, it was literally one of my favourites. Some foodies would say that Vietnamese food is quite bland, and it is lacking in huge amounts of flavour. Vietnamese allow each person to add the flavour through sauces. This is a good thing for people with celiac, because it is usually the sauces that are the culprit.
Gluten Free Fish Sauce
Is fish sauce gluten free? It can be annoying, but if depends. You will always have to ask about the ingredient, because you never know what food manufacturers are putting into products these days. Especially when starting out with a celiac diagnosis. When you actually start reading the labels, you find out that gluten is in many products. You also start understanding all the ingredients manufactures put into food.
In the restaurants that I was frequenting, they were using the Lee Kum Kee Panda Brand. This fish sauce is gluten free and I was able to look it up online. The other sauces that restaurants had was the Squid Brand which was also gluten free.
Gluten Free Vietnamese Food
Before travelling to a new country, you will wonder – is Vietnamese food gluten free? I was happy to find some restaurants that I could successfully eat at and where traditional Vietnamese food was gluten free. To get a great list of questions to ask about gluten free at restaurants, click on the link.
If you can find a local who can dine with you and help you navigate the restaurant scene in your area that would be ideal. Once you had educated them, you can take them out with you and find a traditional restaurant that you can build a relationship with, so you can eat out safely in Vietnam. Celiac people are the most loyal customers, once we know about a place we can eat at, we go there all of the time.
|Summer rolls – goi cuon|
Pho soup (rice noodles) – pho
Bun (also rice noodles) – bun
|Tapioca – hu tieu|
Mung bean noodles – mien
Rice paper rolls – banh trang nuong
Gluten Free Travelling & Products
Gluten Free Products in Vietnam
I did find some gluten free products in Vietnam. I was excited about it and wanted to share them with you, so you can try them too if you are ever in Vietnam. These products were tested with my Nima Gluten Sensor, which allows me to test food for gluten prior to ingesting them. This helps me out when I can’t read the ingredients.
I always need snack food between meals and on outings for the day. I feel more comfortable being able to be in control of what I am eating and not solely relying on a restaurant to cook for me. It is very important for me to have food independence and find food products that I can eat.
Looking For Adventure?
Vietnam has so many options for things to do. You can go snorkeling, on island boat excursions, hiking, rice field exploring or just beach time.
Booking tours for day adventures is a great option to see the country and meet people. If you are wanting to explore your options, check these Vietnam tours here.
My Favourite Gluten Free Restaurant in Vietnam
I frequented one restaurant almost every second day while in Da Nang, Vietnam. I loved the service and the food, so I must recommend it to you.
Gluten Free in Vietnam
For detailed city guides, do not miss out on my Da Nang and Hanoi articles below.
Da Nang is a great city to get lost in. Click here for everything you need to know about how to travel gluten free in Da Nang.
Don't Forget About Insurance
It is a good idea to be prepared at all times. This means making sure you have adequate travel insurance. Get a quote below.
You Need a VISA
For all things to know about the VISA requirements, see all the essentials you need to know before planning a trip to Vietnam.
The process was very easy, so do not worry. Just make sure get it before you go.
The currency used in Vietnam is the Vietnamese Dong. Looking at the recent exchange rate you will receive 100,000 VND for $5.81 CAD or $4.38 USD. It always feels good to have such big bills in your wallet.
There were plenty of times I mistook a 10,000 VND bill for a 100,000 VND bill and almost overpaid for things. While I was lucky and the person told me right away, you may not be so lucky.
If you are looking for USD in Vietnam, get ready for a funny experience. We had to get it at gold stores. You heard me right, we took VND to gold stores and exchanged it for USD. It was a super entertaining experience.
How is Wi-Fi?
We were able to get reliable Wi-Fi throughout the country. Most cafes, restaurants and bars have Wi-Fi that you can use. Just remember not to be checking your personal banking information on these because they are not password secured.
Since you can get Wi-fi literally everywhere, you can use google translate. You should be able to communicate with the servers at the local restaurants if you need to.
As mentioned above, you should also have your Celiac card with you at all times. We were in Vietnam for a month and since we did not have a data plan from back home, we found a tourist SIM card. We paid $32 CAD for 5 gigabytes of 4G and unlimited data at the lower level. This was not bad at all and it might even be worth it to just use the tourist SIM card if your package at home is going to be more expensive than this.
I loved exploring the markets to find interesting items. I collected a lot of art and interesting t-shirts. The coffee culture in Vietnam is also huge, so you can bring some local coffee as a souvenir back home too.
The Vietnam people will have inflated prices for tourists. Do not take it personally, they do it to everyone. If there is a specific item you really want, have a maximum price that you are willing to pay and try haggling with them. Vietnamese people are very nice, don’t take their desire to make a living as a negative thing. It is just much more normal not to have a fixed price here.
Final notes about Eating Gluten Free in Vietnam
I had a lovely time in Vietnam and I will definitely be coming back.
Where is your next adventure going to take you? I have been all over the globe and may be able to help you out. Subscribe to my newsletter and stay in the loop.
If you are looking to learn more about Vietnam before you go, I can recommend these books to you for a deeper dive:
Cheers, I hope you enjoyed my lovely trek,
Brett – The Ultimate Gluten Free Traveller
3 Easy Gluten Free Vietnamese Meals
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