From the group that owns The Running Bean, Snowee, and Esta Eatery comes Be An Vegetarian: a healthy restaurant that serves up iconic Viet dishes.
The food is so good, it even turned the chef vegetarian! After 2 years of working at Be An, he was fully converted. Now that’s the best advertisement you can get.
Clients range from office workers to local Buddhists to Indian expats. And as a vegetarian restaurant, they are FULLY booked from morning ‘till night on the 1st and 15th of every month of the lunar calendar. Many Buddhists eat vegetarian on those days, and I understand why they choose Be An!
So if you’re planning a healthy friend date, check your calendars or book more than 1 day in advance.
Let’s review the food! I recommend going with a group because it’s so fun to try as many dishes as you can.
We started off with the chef’s favorite dish on the entire menu, the Phở Cuốn or phở rolls. Soft rolls are stuffed with enoki mushrooms to give the roll a bit of a bite. Don’t forget to dip it in peanut sauce. It’s already vegetarian, so you don’t have to miss out on your favorite familiar sauce!
Definitely a tasty starter. But if you’re not that hungry, save your stomach for those iconic veggie Viet dishes like the phở. Those were the most memorable dishes, in my opinion.
Another great dish to share with the table is the Gỏi Các Loại Hoa - the mixed flowers salad with crispy enoki mushroom. Now I’m not that into mushrooms, but actually… these mushrooms were my favorite part of this dish. Super crispy, lovely batter. They should turn this into a street food dish without the salad! I could see myself walking around the city with this hand fan full of ‘shrooms.
But the salad itself is also tasty. This mixed flower salad is fresh and tangy with a nice variety of textures. Would recommend getting this for the table to contrast hot soups you will for sure order after reading this column.
Wait, a veggie cơm tấm? Yup! Instead of going heavy on the pork, these little balls of marinated seitan bring some juicy flavor to the dish. Honestly, broken rice, to me, isn’t about the pork cutlet. It’s about the mix of all flavors in one taste. But texturally, the seitan is missing a bit of a bite.
They even had veggie fish sauce! Trust me, I asked how they managed that. But the chef doesn’t reveal his secrets. ;)
The only thing I did miss was a very savory Chả Trứng Hấp (the egg meatloaf). I never knew what was exactly in it (I don’t ask questions about Viet food, I just enjoy it), but I now know it contains pork. So a little realization there, but all in all, a great dish.
I would also recommend this stir-fried flat rice noodle dish. You could have fooled me and told me there was meat in this dish. The sauce is thick and comforting and even tastes a bit smokey. For me, this is the most ‘meaty’ dish we tried. If you’re looking for a comfort dish that will fill you up, this is the one.
They often feature new dishes and actually put them on the permanent menu if it’s a hit. Every 3-6 months, they will also remove about 30% of the menu of dishes that no one is ordering. So: if you love a dish at Be An, make sure to order it enough so it will be on the menu forever!
For every Viet dish you’re craving, they seem to have a veggie version for it. And if not, they are probably working on it. Yes, I already told them to try a Bánh xèo. ;)
This Bún without-the-bò Huế is no different from their other veggie makeovers.
That salty and spicy core flavor is there, now you just have some mushrooms and tofu to pair it with. And that tofu takes its job seriously: it soaks up all the flavors of the broth.
And maybe it’s not hard to imagine, but this was the hardest dish to make vegetarian. So listen, it might not be exactly how you’re used to it. But isn’t it great that this exists? That someone tried their hardest to recreate it for people who are vegetarian or just want to be healthier? I think that’s cool.
What surprised me most was the phở. It just tasted like a regular beef or chicken phở to me, without having to think about it being a veggie version. You can taste all the traditional phở spices and slurp your noodles like you’re used to. The chef honestly did an amazing job with the broth.
I probably won’t fish out every last bit of vegetable as I do with the beef in my phở, but it’s a great alternative when you want to eat healthier! I bet this is the perfect get-well soup to eat when you’re feeling sick. Warm, comforting, and good for you.
And thank the lord: boba is vegetarian. So this jiggly tofu pudding with brown sugar boba is the perfect end to a lovely veggie feast.
When you’re eating vegetarian, it doesn’t mean you don’t miss your grandma’s phở or your auntie’s BBH. I think it’s important to still be able to eat what your heart (or stomach) desires, just in the version that you feel comfortable with. That’s exactly what Be An provides, and I think it’s great.
You can visit their Nguyễn Huệ location or even order in! But order your lunch before 11, cause it gets busy.
I hope it will convince a lot of Saigonese to try out the veggie vida.
Just not on the 1st and the 15th of every month. Unless you have a booking a few days before. ;)