Back Eat & Drink » Saigon Hẻm Gems » Hẻm Gems: Finding Your Path at a Downtown Vegan Buffet

Hẻm Gems: Finding Your Path at a Downtown Vegan Buffet

Peaceful music that chimes with joy, monks that greet you with smiles, and a delectable donation-based vegan buffet — it's a little heaven on earth. Well, heaven underneath a derelict building on Ton That Dam Street, to be more exact. This vegan Hẻm Gem is well-hidden (I lived in this building for three months before I first tried it!), but it’s easy to find your way back once you've discovered it.

Upon arrival at 14 Ton That Dam, parking guards hail you over and show you where to deposit your vehicle. After parking, you make your way down the alley beneath the building before finding Man Tu Vegan on your right-hand side. You’ll feel calm immediately after stepping inside as the Zen-like music pulls you into a different world. For me, it's not just a restaurant: it’s a retreat from bustling Saigon.

Sweet aromas guide you to plates of beautifully arranged dishes where you meet your first challenge: the number of options. All the dishes are so inviting that the eyes quickly outgrow the stomach. I find myself doing some kind of meditation: Breathe in, remember you can come back for more. Breathe out, now help yourself. After choosing from a variety of dishes with vibrant colors and different tastes, it’s time to sit down and enjoy.

My plate was stacked full of food, and many of the dishes I chose from on this day were new to me. I had fried rice with turmeric, vegan sushi, a slice of vegan lasagna (yes, you read right), some broccoli with carrots and peppers and potatoes. The vegan lasagna definitely stood out as my favorite on this occasion. The texture was amazing and it still had a cheesy, wholesome feel to it.

After polishing off my plate, I got a bowl of curry and some bread to dip. This particular curry isn’t spicy at all; instead, it’s creamy and sweet. I made quick work of it before moving onto dessert, which features an assortment of chè to choose from. I went for the chè đậu đen along with nước cốt dừa. The mixture of the warm, sweet chè with the cool coconut milk made for a perfect end to the meal. Everybody leaves here with a full stomach, without feeling heavy. This is the amazing thing about vegan food — it’s really easy on the digestive system.

Every day during lunchtime (11am-2pm) and at dinner (6pm-9pm), except when it’s the 1st or 15th day of each lunar month, the buffet is completely donation-based, or "Pay as much as your pleasure," as it says on the donation box. On those special days of the lunar calendar, it’s VND150,000 per ticket.

Frequenting tables and checking if guests enjoyed their meals is Thai Phuong, the owner of Man Tu Vegan. In the restaurant business, a ‘donation-based buffet’ may seem like suicide to many. Phuong, on the other hand, believes in ‘following the way’. The guests I spoke to agree with her, and that’s what keeps them coming back. They want to experience a change from regular dining spots and discover delicious vegan food. I can assure you, once you try it, you’ll see her way.

Mãn Tự Vegan is open for lunch from 11am to 2pm and dinner from 6pm to 9pm. 


To sum up:

Taste: 4/5

Price: 5/5

Atmosphere: 5/5

Friendliness: 5/5

Location: 5/5

Killian hails from wild South Africa. He's long forgotten the hunt and now inhabits tea houses during the day and cocktail bars at night. Once a fighter, he's hung up his gloves and decided to become a photographer.

Vegetarian food

14/2 Ton That Dam, D1


Related Articles:

- Hẻm Gems: Where Chay Alter Egos of Vietnam's Everyday Soups Reign

- Hẻm Gems: Saigon's 100-Year-Old Vegetarian Quán

- Hẻm Gems: Cô Khanh's Vegetarian Banquet and a Trip Down Memory Lane

Related Articles

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: It's a Pagoda, It's a Restaurant, It's Superb Vegetarian Food

The revered 92-year-old Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh sums up his teachings on food and the first meal of the day like this: “I asked some children, 'What is the purpose of eating breakfast...

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: Pho Chay Nhu and 35 Years of Serving Tasty Vegetarian Meals

A bowl full of noodles is one of the things that make me feel lucky to be alive, and alive in Saigon in particular.

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: The Comfort of Slurping Vegetarian Noodles on the Pavement

Tien, who’s been up since 4am, stops for a moment, lets out a small sigh of satisfaction and wipes the sweat from her brow with the well-used towel around her neck. It’s now 7:45am on another hot, hum...

Khoi Pham

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: The Refreshing Simplicity of Veggies, Roots and Mushrooms

Explaining the food at Rau Củ Nấm Vegan Restaurant is simple; it’s all in the name: vegetables, tubers, and mushrooms.

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: Where Chay Alter Egos of Vietnam's Everyday Soups Reign

My first-ever vegetarian dish, long before I followed a plant-based diet, was hủ tiếu chay, and since then it has been my go-to order when trying a new restaurant. Besides, you definitely cannot go wr...

Khoi Pham

in Saigon Hẻm Gems

Hẻm Gems: At Sara Ethiopian, a Chicken Stew for the Soul

Before the existence of Sara Ethiopian Restaurant in Saigon, my knowledge about the African country could fit squarely in a child’s palm: its capital, Addis Ababa; the tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash ...

Partner Content