This lifestyle is not only possible, it’s easy. We’re giving you 6 spots that are a good start. But you’re sure to find more as you explore Ho Chi Minh City.
Enjoying a gluten-free Saigon lifestyle is easier than you think. Wheat is not a prominent part of the Vietnamese diet and the majority of starchy foods are made with rice flour. With a bit of education, you can easily sample a wide range of Vietnamese street food. Check out this comprehensive list of safe-to-eat foods in Vietnam by the Sightseeing Celiac and Legal Nomad. You can also make or buy a gluten-free restaurant card to make communication with the vendors easier.
Be aware that cross-contamination can be an issue, especially in little street food stalls. So if you are severely celiac, there is a strong possibility your gluten-free meal has come in contact with wheat. Also, check the ingredients of the soy sauce. Many brands from China contain wheat. Avoid banh mi or deep-fried meats as they are usually coated in wheat.
If you are cooking, you have the option of sticking to traditional Vietnamese dishes such as rice (com), noodles (mien, pho, bun) or rice paper rolls (banh trang). If you are looking for imported ingredients, try Annam Gourmet. Here you can find clearly labeled gluten-free ingredients from all over the world.
If you are looking to eat out, here is a handy list of places that can make sure your meal qualifies as gluten-free Saigon:
What: Noir is a high-end restaurant experience with a twist. Created to support visually-impaired people who struggle with high rates of unemployment, poverty and stigma, Noir offers a set multi-course menu and you eat completely in the dark. Your server will guide you into a completely dark and insulated dining room. Then he/she will bring you three courses and encourage you to guess what they are. There are different set menus available and the chefs are able to make their creations gluten-free upon request.
Where: Lane 178-18D Hai Ba Trung, Da Kao, District 1
How Much: 480,000 to 700,000 VND set menu options, excluding drinks
What: Most poke restaurants you encounter in the city do not serve wheat products. Poke is a Hawaiian side dish often eaten as an appetizer or snack in the islands. The mainstream version, found at Poke Saigon and so many other places around the world, is normally served with raw sushi-grade fish (or tofu, for vegetarians), fruit, vegetables, rice and toppings such as wakame and ponzu sauce.
Where: 42 Ly Tu Trong, District 1 and 42 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, District 2
How much: 120,000 to 170,000 VND per dish
Home Finest Saigon
What: Another high-concept Asian fusion restaurant with live cello music. Home Finest Saigon‘s menu contains gluten-free bread for a more traditional Western breakfast. You can also specify your preferences to the knowledgeable waitstaff and the kitchen will make the required adjustments. Most of the produce is organic and the meat is free range.
Where: 252 Dien Bien Phu, District 3
How Much: 100,000 to 200,000 VND per dish
What: Vintage Emporium offers healthier breakfast options fusing the western and eastern flavors. Smoothie bowls, eggs, a whole bunch of avocados and gluten-free bread to pile them on are on the menu here.
Where: Villa Number 1, Street 39, Thao Dien, District 2 and 5B Nguyen Van Thu Street, Da Kao, District 1.
How Much: 60,000 to 170,000 VND per dish
What: Baba’s is well-known throughout Vietnam for its consistently delicious and authentic Northern and Southern Indian dishes. Try papadum or dosa, which are made from a combination of rice and lentil flours, or biryani, a flavourful rice dish. With curries, you would need to consult the waitstaff or the chef to ensure the liquid is not thickened with wheat, though normally lentil flour is used instead. Typically the meats and paneer are roasted and the tandoors are gluten-free as well, but consult the kitchen because the same oven is often used to bake the breads.
Where: 274 Bui Vien Street, District 1 and 242 Nguyen Van Huong, Thao Dien, District 2
How Much: 60,000 to 340,000 VND per dish
What: This is one of the best Italian restaurants in Saigon — and it serves gluten-free and corn pasta too. Ciao Bella often has their packaging on display at the restaurant, so you can double-check the ingredients.
Where: 11 Dong Du, Ben Nghe, District 1
How Much: 200,000 to 350,000 VND per main dish
Gluten-free Saigon, your way
Asian cuisine lends itself wonderfully to a gluten-free lifestyle and with the intermingling of cultures and flavors, there are many options for a gluten-free Saigon. Don’t be afraid of street vendors or take-out. Just keep your smartphone handy so you can use Google Translate to tell them exactly what you want. Or better yet, learn some basic Vietnamese phrases that will help you with your everyday experience. As long as you remember some of the key names of rice-based foods and perhaps get a gluten-free card, you will have an easy path to enjoying Vietnam’s culinary delights in all their glory.