My most recent visit to Vientiane was in 2003, and I recall little more than a delicious sandwich shop followed by the days of severe food poisoning that ensued for my travel companion. Most of my time was spent in the luxury room we splurged on ($15 USD used to buy an awful lot more in this city). I was scared to leave her and I didn’t want any more sandwiches, so instead I watched a lot of Tom and Jerry in not English.
Fast forward eleven years and I’m finally back, enjoying the city far more on this occasion. Vientiane has a few reliable vegan options when it comes to dining out, but many close just after lunch. If you have one in mind that you are desperate to try, you would be smart to go earlier rather than later. There are rarely set hours, with most eateries closing when the food runs out.
I only managed to make it to three places, mainly since my only full day in Vientiane was on a Sunday and many businesses are closed that day.
Reunion Cafe, the only vegan restaurant practically guaranteed to be open until 21:00 seven days a week, has an extensive menu of Vietnamese, Thai, and Lao dishes that favour re-hydrated soy protein and mock meats. There are condiments on hand (toasted chilli powder, sugar, soy sauce, chilli sauce, vegan gapi) to pull it together.
The papaya salad is also good because I hate uncooked long bean, a common ingredient in som tam, and Reunion’s version omitted them. There was good use of vegan shrimp paste to replace the fish sauce that would normally be in this dish.
You might like the larb if you hate chili and like the taste of my tears.
The grilled chicken, made from those flat TVP slices all the vegan buffets in London use, is recommended. The slices are re-hydrated with salty broth before they are fried on high heat to attain a crispy exterior. The texture is outstanding.
Khouadin offers a 25,000 kip (the currency is my name!) buffet with a selection of more than a dozen dishes (at 10am on a Sunday, anyway) plus the Lao version of khanom jeen. There was no English spoken. Sadly I only had time for one visit, but was impressed with what I sampled:
Bitter gourd: they weren’t kidding about the bitter. Did not like.
Tofu larp: dry fried tofu cut into thin slivers and served with fresh lime, mint, chili, coriander, shredded banana blossom, and toasted rice.
Pumpkin, root vegetable, and tofu coconut curry: soft flavours, no chilli, and a great complement to the spicier foods on my plate.
Aubergine salad: steamed aubergine with chunks of smashed lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, enoki mushroom, chili, coriander, and mint. Spiciest dish I tried.
More Options for a Vegan in Vientiane
In terms of a great meal, Makphet (which I’ve written about separately here) wins, but the comfort of knowing food is vegan suitable without off menu requests is nice too. Khouadin scores on Lao cuisine and Reunion on reliability.
Oh, and if you want vegan coffee in Vientiane then know that Joma has soy milk (and free wifi).