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Exploring innovative vegan cuisine in old rice barn in heart of Hanoi
Jenna Duong 11:25, 2024/05/25
A restaurant serves delicious vegetarian dishes in an impressive space reminiscent of Hanoi's Old Quarter with its 36 old guilds.

Rice grain, the essence of Vietnamese wet rice civilization, is not only the main food of the Vietnamese people, but also stands for goodness and success.

Understanding this significance, Dana Vegan House chose the grain of rice as its main inspiration and theme, which permeates every corner and dish of the restaurant.

A distinctive - yet indigenous - cultural space

 Located in Hanoi's Old Quarter, this is a wonderful place for vegetarians. Photo: Den Da  

Nestled in a small alleyway next to the bustling Cho Gao Street or 'Rice Market' - one of 36 old guilds of Hanoi in the late 18th century - Dana Vegan House is a tranquil meeting place with a relaxing, nature-friendly vibe. From the outside, guests are immediately captivated by the rustic space with beautifully arranged sacks of rice, bundles of paddy, and traditional rice sifters at the entrance.

In particular, the restaurant is also a unique cultural destination where art, culture, and vegan cuisine come together in a delicate, harmonious way. Inspired by the image of the old rice barn, it offers a cozy space that takes diners back to idyllic childhood memories. Every architectural feature and interior design is carefully considered to represent a philosophy of life centered on kindness and compassion.

Art installation entitled 'Harvest Wish' by artist Duc Phuong.

Huyen Vu, founder of Dana Vegan House, talked about the concept of the restaurant. "When I think of the rice barn, my paternal grandmother, who is also my source of inspiration, comes to mind. I remember how she taught me not to drop any grains when rinsing rice before cooking, or to eat the last grain in the bowl. As a result, I realized that the rice grain, or wet rice culture, was the ethics of the Vietnamese people." She said the name 'Dana' means 'helping and giving."

Upon entering, diners will feel as if they have traveled back in time and entered a rice barn in the Thang Long Citadel of the past. Not many people know that the location of Dana Vegan House, 12 Dong Thai Street, was once the rice barn of Luong Thien, which means "good-hearted" - a wealthy merchant who was famous for her generosity. In a year of poor harvest due to drought, she opened her barn to poor commoners, making her beloved and appreciated.

Lovely view of Hanoi's Old Quarter from the second floor of the restaurant.

Through historic ups and downs, the rice barn has been repurposed as a wartime military post, a post-war grocery store, a residence, a restaurant, a bar, and so on. Today, it has become the Dana Vegan House - an innovative vegan house that bears a distinct cultural mark and spreads a message of compassion.

Re-enacting old Hanoi’s vibe

Dana Vegan House's first-floor space transports diners back to old Hanoi with wavy tile eaves and bamboo market stall wattles that serve as shades during the day and windows at night. This striking design not only creates a unique feature but also tells the story of the Thang Long Citadel rice barn.   

Continuing the journey, guests will find the bar, the heart of the first floor, where the best dishes of the restaurant are presented. The antique wooden counter and cupboards have an antique, serene atmosphere, but there is also vivacity thanks to the colorful products illuminated by warm yellow lights. The combination of rough sackcloth and smooth, reflective mirrors and wooden surfaces makes the bar a unique work of installation art. 

The space of Luong Thien's old rice barn is recreated.  

More than just a bar, the space tells meaningful stories. Each of its details provides guests with awe-inspiring experiences, coupled with cultural and historical values hidden deep within.

The first floor can be considered a "lively destination of Cho Gao Street," where visitors can experience the joyful bustle while exploring a variety of vegan dishes. A plethora of bottles and test tubes, as well as pots of rice plants, corn, potatoes, and cassava, are sure to intrigue and excite diners.

Climbing a tiny staircase to the second floor of the restaurant, people would be amazed by its exquisite architecture. In fact, the building is modeled after a 100-year-old house that belonged to a family in Nam Dinh Province, with obvious signs of time and traditional cultural values. Meanwhile, diners would be amazed at the eaves made of thousands of pieces of Do paper.

 The lanterns feature bunches of straw created by artist Duc Phuong.

To create a medieval yet impressive three-room house, Huyen Vu and artist Duc Phuong were inspired by Do paper lanterns, whose yellow light brings coziness and a touch of "innovation" to the traditional northern Vietnamese house. The vegan house was suddenly transformed into a giant lantern covered in sheets of paper normally used in painting and known for its warm, distinctive color.

"In the face of the current problems of urbanization, it's as if the second floor of the house preserves the presence of folk values, the ingenuity, and delicacy - but also the simplicity and warmth - of our ancestors. The house is the memory of a long life. The way we have expressed this is the bond between us and our ancestors," artist Duc Phuong told The Hanoi Times. 

The lanterns, hung close to the floor to resemble red silk-cotton flowers, are another impressive highlight. This idea by artist Duc Phuong was inspired by the bundles of straw left by farmers after a bumper harvest, symbolizing the end of the rice season and the beginning of prosperity.

 A little dinner at Dana Vegan House. 

At the end of the exploration, guests enter the restaurant's open kitchen. Designed with modern motifs, this area showcases the talents of the chefs as they meticulously and professionally prepare dishes. The friendly, homey atmosphere makes guests feel like they are enjoying a cozy family meal.

Chic innovative vegan menu  

Contrary to popular views of vegetarianism around the world, the vegetarian culture of the Vietnamese people is still strongly influenced by religion. This practice in Vietnam is not only about not eating meat, but also about showing tranquility, compassion, and appreciation for all living beings.

Understanding the deep values of Vietnamese vegan culture, Dana Vegan House pursues the motto "Native upgrades plus international updates". It values organic, highly indigenous ingredients to preserve - and elevate the status of - Vietnamese vegan dishes. 

 The vegan meals served at Dana Vegan House.

Unconstrained by traditional boundaries, the restaurant's vegan menu is blown by the "west wind" in terms of ingredients, presentation, and dining style. While enjoying the exquisite dishes, diners can feel an appreciation for the precious agricultural products made in Vietnam. This is because the Vegan House has wisely selected fresh, seasonal ingredients to offer the most refreshing and complete gastronomic experiences.

Most importantly, diners are introduced to dishes that are carefully prepared, preserving the natural flavors of the ingredients. While their taste buds are being satisfied at Dana Vegan House, guests can also enjoy the cool, fresh atmosphere as if they were immersed in nature. 

 One kind of Hanoi noodles.
 The space of Dana Vegan House is reminiscent of the nostalgic ambience of old Hanoi.


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