The majority of Vietnamese people have no idea about Celiac, gluten free. Not many hotels, restaurants and street food stall accommodate Celiac. However, it is not difficult to find gluten free food in Vietnam thanks to the rice-eating culture. Many Vietnamese people eat rice three times a day. A large number of Vietnamese traditional foods are gluten free. I hope that this guide to eating gluten free in Vietnam helps you to enjoy Vietnamese foods at their best and not get sick on your trip to Vietnam. The guide includes popular sources of gluten, gluten free food, places to shop for gluten free food in Vietnam. I also design a Vietnamese gluten free card for you so that you can print it and show it to Vietnamese people who arrange, order and serve your foods.
Popular sources of gluten in Vietnam
In Vietnam, the most popular sources of gluten include wheat (lúa mì), spelled (lúa mì spenta), black wheat (lúa mì đen), barley (lúa mạch), bread (bánh mì), many baked cakes (bánh nướng), pasta (mì ý), noodles (mì sợi), beer (bia). Other foods containing gluten include alcoholic beverages (thức uống có cồn), prepared meat products such as smoked meat, sausages (thực phẩm từ thịt như thịt xông khói, xúc xích), some sauces and thickeners (nước chấm và chất làm sệt), soups (súp), soy sauce (nước tương), maltose (mạch nha).
It is not easy to recognize gluten in foods containing soy sauce, foods thickened with wheat flour, foods marinated with mixed spices such as Knorr, Maggie, Vietnamese sausages, Vietnamese candies containing maltoses, Vietnamese pancakes containing wheat flour.
List of the most popular naturally gluten free foods in Vietnam
The most popular naturally gluten free foods in Vietnam include:
- Rice, sticky rice, corn, cassava, rice flour, sticky rice flour, tapioca starch, mung bean flour, Pho noodles, rice noodles, soup cake noodles, hu tieu clear rice noodles, thick rice noodle, vermicelli, cellophane noodles, banh da cua, rice paper, potatoes (khoai tây).
- Fruits, vegetables, legumes.
- Meats, poultry, fish, seafood.
- Dairy foods.
- Herbs and spices.
List of Vietnamese foods to avoid with a gluten intolerance
- Vietnamese pancakes (Bánh xèo, bánh khọt) sometimes contain wheat flour.
- Some meat substitutes in Vietnam may contain gluten.
- Vietnamese chefs love to marinate meats, poultry with mixed spices, mixed sauces including soy sauce, Knorr, Maggie.
- Many of the Vietnamese vegetarian foods are seasoned with soy sauce and served with soy sauce dip.
- Steamed shrimp/squid with beer (Tôm hấp bia).
- Clear rice noodle soup with wonton (Hủ tiếu hoành thánh), steamed wheat buns (baozi).
- Bò pía roll which is wrapped in Pia rice paper made from wheat flour, Pia cakes (Bánh pía).
- The famous Vietnamese sandwich is made from bread.
- Vietnamese traditional sausages: Vietnamese pork roll (Chả lụa), Vietnamese beef roll (chả bò), Fish cake (chả cá), Crab cake (Chả cua). They usually top some noodle soups and cakes made from rice flour with these sausages so that tell waiters or vendors to not top your foods with these “chả”.
- Hue mixed cake can be topped with toasted bread cubes.
- Paté may contain gluten. Savory mixed steamed sticky rice is usually topped with paté.
- Many traditional Vietnamese candies such as coconut candies, peanut candies contain maltoses.
- Coffee is free gluten but it may contain gluten after processing. Drinking the famous coffee brewed with Phin filter in Vietnam is not worth a risk.
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Vietnamese gluten free foods list
The following foods must not contain soy sauce, wheat flour, mixed spices such as Knorr, Maggie.
- Rice (gạo), steamed rice (cơm trắng), fried rice (cơm chiên) such as Young chow fried rice (Cơm chiên Dương Châu), Fried rice with garlic/hải sản/egg (Cơm chiên tỏi/hải sản/trứng), Hell rice (Cơm âm phủ). Young chow fried rice must not contain Vietnamese pork roll. Broken rice (Cơm tấm) is a famous Vietnamese food, it is usually served with grilled pork, steamed egg meatloaf (chả trứng), pork skin strips (bì).
- Rice congee with duck/chicken/mixed seafood/oyster/fish (Cháo gà/vịt/hải sản/hàu/cá).
- Rice flour (bột gạo):
- Foods consisting of rice noodles, rice macaroni (nui gạo):
- Soup-like dishes: Pho noodle soup (Phở), Hue beef noodle soup (Bún bò Huế), Rice noodle soup with fish in Nha Trang, Danang, Quy Nhon (Bún cá), Crab rice noodle soup (Bún riêu cua), Clear rice noodle soup/mixed (Hủ tiếu nước/khô), Crab/seafood/duck/pork soup cake (Bánh canh cua/hải sản/vịt/ lợn); The noodle soups must not contain Vietnamese pork roll or any kind of “chả” mentioned above. They usually serve Pho with soy bean sauce (tương đen), I would like to recommend not to add the sauce to your Pho or dip the beef in it.
- Mixed (dry) noodles: Quang noodle soup (Mì Quảng), Cao lau Hoi An (Cao lầu Hội An), Grilled pork and rice noodle salad (Bún thịt nướng).
- Rice macaroni soup with meats/poultry (Súp nui gạo với thịt/gia cầm).
- Rice paper (bánh tráng), Spring roll (Gỏi cuốn), Fried roll (Chả giò), amazing snacks including Rice paper salad (Bánh tráng trộn), Rice paper roll (Bánh tráng cuốn), Vietnamese pizza (Bánh tráng nướng).
- Traditional cakes made from rice flour, sometimes a small amount of tapioca starch: Plain rice flan (Bánh đúc), Woven rice vermicelli (Bánh hỏi), Bánh bèo (Bloating fern cake) (without toasted bread cubes), Pyramid dumplings (Bánh giò), Wet cake (Bánh ướt), Steamed rice roll (Bánh cuốn), Can cake (Bánh căn), Honeycomb cake (Bánh bò). Vietnamese people love to eat these cakes with “chả” so that make sure they do not top your cakes with chả lụa, chả bò, etc.
- Foods consisting of rice noodles, rice macaroni (nui gạo):
- Sticky rice (nếp):
- Steamed sticky rice with beans/peanut (Xôi đậu), Steamed sticky with Gac/magenta (Xôi gấc/lá cẩm), Savory steamed sticky with mixed toppings (Xôi mặn thập cẩm) without paté.
- Young green glutinous rice (Cốm).
- Sweet soups from sticky rice (Chè nếp).
- Cakes made from sticky rice such as Square sticky rice cake (Bánh chưng), Cylindric sticky rice cake (Bánh tét), Pyramidal sticky rice cake (Bánh ú).
- Foods from sticky rice flour (bột nếp):
- Sticky rice dumplings in ginger syrup (Chè trôi nước).
- Pyramidal sticky rice cake (Bánh ít).
- Corn (bắp), Corn sweet soup (Chè bắp), bắp luộc (boiled corn), Steamed corn seeds (Xôi bắp).
- Steamed cassava (Củ mì/sắn hấp), Cassava cake (Bánh củ mì/sắn).
- Cellophane noodles (miến) made from mung bean flour, tapioca starch, arrowroot, Rice vermicelli soup with chicken/duck (Miến gà/vịt), Stir-fried rice vermicelli with crab/seafood (Miến xào cua/hải sản).
- Mung bean cake (Bánh đậu xanh).
- Desserts: Agar agar (Rau câu), White and black grass jelly (Sương sáo), Flan cake (Bánh flan), Vietnamese sweet soup (Chè), Mixed fruits (Trái cây dĩa) without syrup.
- Yogurt, tea.
- Fish sauce (nước mắm), fish sauce dip (nước chấm làm từ nước mắm) and foods seasoninged with this kind of sauce.
Tips on eating as a Celiac in Vietnam
Booking a package tour with a trusted company that is experienced with Celiac tourists is a good way to make sure you are safe on the trip to Vietnam. However, this is not a good choice for some travelers for many reasons. Some people would like to customize their trip, visit off-the-beaten-track places and maximize their small budgets in Vietnam.
If you join a tour including meals, you should let tour operators know about you and the restrictions right after booking. So they can arrange everything for you.
Vietnamese people speak limited English except for your tour guide, the staff at hotels, restaurants for foreign tourists. A Vietnamese gluten free card is a must in the country if you usually order your foods yourself without any help from your local friend or tour guide.
Asking before ordering and eating is one of the top things to do in order to eat as a Celiac in Vietnam. After showing the gluten free card to waiters or food vendors, you are served delicious foods, do not eat all right away. Smell the foods and check if it contains gluten. In fact, a large number of Vietnamese chefs do not have experience on gluten free foods. They may accidentally add soy sauces or broth mixes to your foods. You can confirm by asking:
- Thức ăn này có chứa nước tương (xì dầu) không? (Does this food contain soy sauce?).
- Thức ăn này có chứa Knorr/Maggie không? (Does this food contain Knorr/Maggie?).
- Tôi thấy không khỏe, làm ơn đưa tôi đến bệnh viện. (I feel sick, please take me to a hospital).
Celiac friendly accommodations
AirBnb is a good choice if you would like to cook yourself. There is a large number of good AirBnb in Vietnam. The following hotels are good choices fo Celiac:
La Siesta Trendy
Location: 12 Nguyen Quang Bich St., Old Quarter, Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi.
Tel: +84 24 3923 4026/4027/4029
Hyatt Regency Da Nang
Location: 5 Truong Sa Street, Hoa Hai Ward, Ngu Hanh Son District, Danang.
Tel: +84 236 3981 234
Website: Hyatt Regency Da Nang
Four Seasons Nam Hai
Location: Block Ha My Dong B, Dien Ban District-level Town, Quang Nam Province.
Tel: +84 235 3940 000
La Siesta Hoi An
Location: 132 Hung Vuong Street, Thanh Ha Ward, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province.
Tel: +84 235 3915912/3/4/5; Hotline: +84 975 335 090
Shopping for gluten free food in Vietnam
An Nam Gourmet Market stores are great places to buy gluten free food. You can find information about An Nam Gourmet at http://annam-gourmet.com.
Location: 51 Xuan Dieu St., Quang An Wrd., Tay Ho Dist., Hanoi
Tel: +84 24 6673 9661/ +84 24 3718 4071
Opening hours: Mon- Fri: 7:00 AM – 9:00 PM; Sat- Sun: 8:30 AM – 9:30 PM
Hai Ba Trung
Location: 16-18 Hai Ba Trung St., Ben Nghe Wrd, Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84 28 3822 9332/+84 28 3822 7131
Opening hours: 7:00 AM – 9:30 PM daily
Location: 65 Le Loi St., Ben Thanh Wrd., Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84 777 747 263/+84 28 3914 0515
Opening hours: Mon – Thu: 9:30 AM – 9:30 PM; Fri – Sun: 9:30 AM – 10:30 PM
Location: 41A Thao Dien St., Thao Dien Wrd., Dist. 2, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84 28 3636 6788
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 7:00 AM – 9:30 PM
Location: 88 Song Hanh St., An Phu Wrd., Dist. 2, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84 28 3636 7484 / +84 28 3636 7832
Opening hours: Mon- Fri: 9:00 AM – 10:00 PM; Sat- Sun: 8:30 AM – 10:00 PM
Phu My Hung
Location: Riverpark Premier, 64-70 Nguyen Duc Canh St., Tan Phong Wrd., Dist. 7, Ho Chi Minh City
Tel: +84 28 5411 7149 / +84 285412 3264
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 7:00 AM – 9:30 PM
In addition, you can also buy raw foods at supermarkets such as Co.opmart, Lottemart, MegaMarket, Vinmart, Bach Hoa Xanh or local markets near your hotels and cook yourself.
Vietnamese gluten free card by Scooter Saigon Tour
Tôi bị bệnh Celiac, ngộ độc và dị ứng với gluten – loại prồtêin có trong lúa mì, lúa mạch, Knorr, Maggi, nước chấm như xì dầu (nước tương), mayonnaise, tương ớt, tương cà, thức ăn làm sệt với bột mì. Gluten có thể có trong chả lụa, chả bò, chả cá, bánh xèo, hoành thánh, mì trứng. Một lượng nhỏ gluten cũng làm tôi có vấn đề về sức khỏe. Ăn đồ ăn nấu chung một nồi, chiên chung dầu với thực phẩm kể trên làm tôi dị ứng và ngộ độc dễ dàng.
Làm ơn cho tôi biết tôi có thể ăn gì trong thực đơn. Hoặc anh chị có thể làm riêng món cho tôi không có các nguyên liệu kể trên.
Thức ăn làm từ khoai tây, gạo, nếp, bắp (ngô), củ sắn, bột gạo, bột nếp, bột năng, bột đậu xanh: cơm, xôi, phở, bún, bánh canh, hủ tiếu, bún bò, miến, bánh đa cua, bánh đa nem.
Rau tươi, trái cây, hải sản, thịt gia súc (bò, lợn, dê), gia cầm (gà, vịt, cút), cá, trứng, sữa tươi (không nêm với nước tương, Knorr, Maggie và các gia vị tổng hợp, nước sốt đóng chai khác).
Sữa chua, trà.
Cảm ơn vì đã đọc và giúp đỡ. Thật xin lỗi vì làm phiền anh chị. Tôi phải thật cẩn trọng vì đồ ăn vì sức khỏe.
( I have Celiac disease which means I will get sick heavily if I eat gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley, Knorr, Maggi, dips such as soy sauce, mayonnaise, chili sauce, tomato sauce, foods thickened with wheat flour. Vietnamese pork roll, beef roll, fish cake, Vietnamese pancake, wonton, egg noodles. A small amount of the listed foods make me ill for days. Eating foods cooked with the above foods in the same pot, foods fried in oil used to fry the above foods can also make me sick.
Please let me know what I can eat in the menu or you can make a suitable food for me.
I can eat:
Foods made from potatoes, rice, sticky rice, corn, cassava, rice flour, sticky rice flour, tapioca starch, mung bean flour, Pho noodles, rice noodles, soup cake noodles, hu tieu clear rice noodles, thick rice noodle, vermicelli, banh da cua, rice paper.
Vegetables, fruits, seafood, meats (beef, pork, goat), poultry (duck, meat, quail), fish, eggs, milk (without soy sauce, Knorr, Maggie, mixed spices, bottled and canned sauces).
Thanks for reading and helping. I am sorry for any inconvenience. I must careful because of my health.)