As a child I knew the word chay really only from the monks who so-called ‘an chay’, eat buddhist food. This means first that they eat no meat and no salt. Today, this word often means ‘vegetarian’, but there is a difference between vegetarian and Buddhist. Vegetarian travelers to Vietnam that ask me for culinary advice, I refer to Buddhist food, then you are sure that you will not get meat. If you say you eat vegetarian or vegan, you will still have fish sauce or a soup with meat broth. Because for the average Vietnamese there, it is sufficient to make the meat not visible. Although in Vietnamese-Dutch dictionary chay is translated as vegetarian, this is not quite a correct translation. Vietnamese people will not be surprised if you say that you only want to eat ‘chay’, but they will find it strange when you say you do not eat meat. This indicates that ‘chay’ is an accepted way of life, but ‘eating vegetarian’ still makes eyebrows frown. The vegetarian tourists bring again something new in Vietnam. With the increasing demand for vegetarian food, the Buddhist, vegetarian restaurants and vegetarian recipes also increases.

Goi cuon chay is actually a Buddhist fresh spring roll, but because in this recipe salt (and onion) is added, I have translated it with ‘vegetarian’. It is a very simple dish and the best way is to ensure that all the ingredients are ready just before frying them. The substitute for meat in this dish is ‘mock duck’, imitation meat for duck and chicken, which is made from gluten and soy sauce. The dipping sauce for this recipe uses Maggi aroma and (Chinese) coarse bean sauce, taotjo. My mother uses small sweet carrots that are cut by hand for the crunchy bite. Do not add too much salt, because the special sauce will finish the job. I just follow the advice of my mother. The recipe is a fairytale forest like taste design, I would not change anything.

The amount of each ingredient is to taste. I take the cabbage as a main ingredient.

  • 50 g glass noodles/bean threads
  • 15 g wood ear mushroom/fungus mushroom
  • half a small cabbage, approximately 300 g
  • 150g fried tofu (ready-made or self-fried)
  • 150 g of small carrots
  • 1 can (about 295 g) mock duck
  • 1 small onion
  • salt and pepper
  • oil
  • rice paper
  • fresh herbs to taste: coriander, mint, cucumber, etc. (optional)

Vegetarian bean dipping sauce

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp boiled water (from kettle)
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies (or less for less pit)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp coarse bean sauce / taotjo
  • 2 tbsp Maggi flavor
  • roasted peanuts Dau phong rang, chopped


  1. For the dipping sauce, add the sugar, water, bird’s eye chilli, lemon juice, bean sauce and Maggi flavor together in a bowl. Stir well.
  2. Soak the glass noodles about 15 minutes in a large bowl with hot water.
  3. Soak the wood ear about 15 minutes in a large bowl with hot water.
  4. Cut the cabbage into strips and place in a bowl.
  5. Cut the fried tofu into strips and add them into the bowl with cabbage.
  6. Peel the carrots and cut diagonal slices. Place a few slices on top of each other and cut them again in strips. Put the carrot strips in a large bowl or colander.
  7. Put the can mock duck in a colander, then rinse with a little water and cut into strips. Add the mock duck-strips with the carrots. Cut with a kitchen scissors into the glass noodles. This is to cut the noodles shorter, but you don’t need to cut it accurately in the same lengths. Put the glass noodles in a colander.
  8. Remove the wood ear, which have become larger, fom the bowl with water and rinse. Cut into thin strips and add the wood ears with the carrots and mock duck.
  9. Cut the onion into thin slices.
  10. Heat oil in a large (wok) pan and fry the onion until translucent. Add carrots, mock duck, wood ears and glass noodles with the onion and cook until the carrots are slightly softened but still crunchy.
  11. Add the strips of cabbage and tofu. Put some salt and pepper. With a little sugar to taste. Do not add too much salt because the bean dipping sauce is salty itself. Stir fry until all ingredients have reached the desired doneness and bites. Put the vegetable mixture in a large bowl and place in the middle of the dining table.
  12. Drizzle the chopped roasted peanuts over the bean dipping sauce. Serve these along with rice paper and a large bowl of hot water to soak the rice paper. Each eater gets a plate to roll out the rice paper rolls and a bowl with dipping sauce. Add any fresh herbs to the rolls to taste.