VNT Restaurant Review: Kiez Vegan in Hanoi
|Kiez vegan restaurant. Photo: Reka Markos|
You could be fooled into thinking Kiez is just a regular fast food restaurant, with their loaded fries, kebabs, doners, creamy milkshakes and decadent chocolate cookies, but their entire menu is impressively and deliciously plant-based.
There's an abundance of quality vegan choices in Hanoi, many specialising in local Vietnamese food, executed brilliantly. Kiez, however, is a Western inspired treasure trove offering indulgent fast food, re-crafted into healthier vegan alternatives. It satisfies those dirty weekend cravings as well as mid-week salad and smoothie lunches.
|Colorful falafel plate. Photo: Reka Markos|
Hoa, the owner of Kiez, is making waves in the community with her popular TikTok cooking tutorials, guiding viewers on how to create mouthwatering meat alternatives - trying to do what she can to spread both a vegan mindset and diet. She emphasizes that Kiez is not just for vegans but also for meat eaters, and those who want to cut down on their meat consumption.
|Hoa, owner of Kiez. Photo: Reka Markos|
Originally, Hoa wasn't making vegan food for a living, but producing electrical components for a Hong Kong company. When the company wanted to open a factory in Vietnam, she knew this would affect the local environment, and she wasn't prepared for that mentally and emotionally, as she didn't want to contribute further harm. Hoa wanted a part in protecting the environment, and aligning this with her mindset and diet, she quit her job to eventually open Kiez in March 2020.
Hoa's been vegan for over thirteen years, and the concept of opening Kiez was born from seeing plenty of vegan Asian-inspired cuisine in Hanoi, but feeling a gap, where she missed great German food and felt it would be good to start out as a pop-ups.
|Kiez outdoor seating. Photo: Reka Markos|
Opening Kiez at the start of the lockdown was risky business - Hoa explained that “I'm told that I'm crazy spending money on things that might not turn out to be successful. But even if I lose the money and yet there’s meaning behind it, I could live with that because I just want to spread veganism to people."
Kiez isn't a categorically vegan space, despite the name Kiez Vegan. Rather, it can be an inclusive space where people are welcome to enter with and open mind and try the food, without having veganism in mind.
|Freshly baked chocolate cookies. Photo: Reka Markos|
“In Hanoi, the term 'vegan' is relatively positive among foreigners but for many Vietnamese, they don't eat vegan food because they've no religious ties. I also use onion and garlic but for Vietnamese who follow Buddhist teachings, these ingredients aren't considered to be vegan, even though they're not animal derived.”
The term vegan means something so different culture to culture, and the aim of Kiez is for people to explore a new meaning of the word, and to enjoy fun food that doesn't sacrifice on flavour. In the restaurant, being a meat lover or having one's own religious beliefs co-exists with exploring exciting, conscious cooking. What Kiez is offering is soul food - perhaps not for everyday, but it absolutely hits the spot when looking for something gratifying and indulgent.
|Chick-un wrap. Photo: Reka Markos|
Plenty of vegan places are focused on healthy food, but the reality is that the Kiez menu simply isn't portrayed like that. Despite the deceiving appearances, the mock meats are made from a range of beetroots to beans, and makes for a wonderful protein alternative. In fact, one portion equals to your daily protein intake - making for nutritiously balanced, conscientious plates.
That being said, sometimes knuckling down on a juicy burger and golden fries dipped in luscious house tzatziki is just the ticket, and food doesn't need extra embellishments when it's this good. The chocolate shake and smoothies are a must-try, with not too sweet, balanced flavours, but a particular standout is the frozen coffee selection, topped with luxurious vegan whipped cream. But a word to the wise - your paper straw will give in before you do.
|Kiez butcher products. Photo: Reka Markos|
What's also special about Kiez that as well as functioning as a restaurant, they sell their delectable fake meat products made in-house. It's possible to create mortadella and salami sandwiches with vegan butter at home, all available from the Kiez Butcher. Their selection of products is almost on par in variety with their restaurant menu, both toothsome and interesting.
|Sample menu. Photo: Reka Markos|
However, Hoa is always looking for better, healthier options, and hopes that “there are always more vegan options around. Hanoi's starting to have more vegan restaurants and even non-vegan restaurants that offer vegan options which every restaurant should consider. People who follow the vegan or vegetarian diet hope it will be normalized so you can eat out anywhere with anyone."
|Photo: Reka Markos|
During lockdown, as with any business, Hoa wondered how they would survive. A lot of vegan restaurants had to close down during lockdown because they couldn't make rent. “I was quite worried because I'm very focused on veganism and currently it's my main purpose. But what's more important than making money is seeing peoples reaction. When they realise that it's vegan and they actually like it! I wake up everyday for this reaction.”
|Ice blended coconut coffee. Photo: Reka Markos|
Hoa is now focusing more social media to show people alternatives and is keen to offer help to others, both individuals and restaurants should they need it “I'm not a pro chef but I've been studying vegan meats for so long, so whatever I could do I would do."
|Packaging vegan bacon strips. Photo: Reka Markos|
Hoa wants to invest more attention into producing in the future “because we want the vegan products to be cheaper so that everyone can enjoy it, and not just those who are well off."
She's also got some plans in the works in collaborating with other restaurants, encouraging that this is a good time to try taking risks.
|Momo, mascot of Kiez. Photo: Reka Markos|
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