According to Vietnam News, the country’s metropolitan centers are enjoying a surge in vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Vietnam’s well-established food culture is deeply rooted in animal protein — think pho made from beef bones, lemongrass-marinated pork skewers and more preparations for fish than you can shake a sugarcane stalk at. So what’s behind the rise of vegetarian food in Vietnam?

Restaurants in cities with large observant Buddhist populations, like the central Vietnamese city of Hue, typically serve and eat vegetarian fare on the first and full moon days of the month, as well as holidays, according to royal tradition. Over the centuries, they’ve developed a distinct and delicious range of plant-based fare featuring ingredients like fermented tofu, cha lua chay (vegetarian “ham”), soybeans and soy sauce instead of fish sauce. In Ho Chi Minh City, eateries from roadside stands to upscale restaurants are offering more and more creative vegetarian and vegan options to cater to an increasing population of healthful eaters. Vegetarian restaurants and stalls in Hanoi, a staunchly carnivorous city, are on the uptick as well.

Inspired in part by the enthusiasm of herbivorous Western celebrities and a desire to maintain good health and a slim figure, the small but growing population of Vietnamese vegetarians and vegans are making an impact on the culinary culture of a nation that really loves its meat.