With our CPG Vegan Trips group not arriving until evening, David, Seb and I had time to lunch at Minh Chay, a vegan restaurant restaurant with two locations). The food was absolutely delicious, but I was so hungry I didn’t even take any photos!
However, the best part about this lunch was that it was my first time trying Pho. Pho [pronounced fuh] is a traditional Vietnamese rice noodle soup made with animal-based broth, meat, and vegetables. It’s served with a plate of aromatic fresh herbs to add as you please, and you can also add garlic vinegar or chili paste for a little kick. In Vietnam, pho is served as a breakfast item, and traditional Vietnamese restaurants don’t serve it for lunch or dinner; however, in a less traditional or vegan restaurant, pho is on every menu.
It may sound ridiculous that I’ve never tried pho, even though I love southeast Asian food, live in an area with an abundance of Vietnamese restaurants, and live in a city with the best vegan Vietnamese restaurant (Golden Lotus), but because I don’t tend to gravitate toward noodle dishes, I never had an interest in trying it. Well, those days are over! I can’t wait to find great pho options in restaurants near me in the San Francisco Bay area.
The other exciting thing about this lunch was that I learned my first Vietnamese phrase: “No cilantro.” Because you know. Ewwww. (And for fellow cilantro-haters, it’s không rau mùi.)
By evening all of our travelers with our travelers had arrived and we met for welcome drinks, then headed off to our welcome dinner, which was a feast at Uu Dam Chay. Chay is the Vietnamese word that means “non-meat” or “meatless,” both as a noun and an adjective. Consuming chay food doesn’t refer to vegan dishes necessarily, but it means refraining from the acts of killing of animal lives for food or otherwise. Buddhists have long observed chay eating to adhere to the principles of non-violence or “ahimsa.” Most Asian countries are familiar with this term and will understand when you say “chay”; i.e.: you don’t want meat, dairy or fish in your dish (travel tip!).
On our way to dinner, we arranged for each of our travelers to enjoy a 45-minute cyclo tour of Hanoi. Along the way, we surprised them with champagne and vegan cheese and crackers while they were cycled through the frenetic streets of Hanoi. There’s no way to describe what appears to be mayhem on the crowded streets of Hanoi. Crossing the street seems like a suicide mission at first, with motorbikes, cars, cyclists, and cyclos coming in all directions. But once you surrender and trust, I found it to be very much like a chaotic but beautiful dance. I’m someone that tends to get stressed in situations where there is a lot if stimuli like loud noises, honking horns, and crowds of people, but there was something about Hanoi’s energy that didn’t bother me — dare I say…enjoyed!
We arrived at the absolutely gorgeous multi-level restaurant, Uu Dam Chay. It has a vegetarian menu but they prepared vegan dishes for us. Our CPG Vegan Trip Welcome Feasts are the epitome of abundance and joy where our travelers have their first experience with everyone they will be spending time with over the next several days.
After several hours of eating and drinking, we walked back to our hotel and rested for our next day’s adventure!