Eating vegetarian in Thailand
Thailand is a country in Asia which is blessed with a wide range of fruits and vegetables. One visit to a local market and you’ll find a diverse selection of fresh produced massive quantities. Even though Thailand is famous for their amazing durians, mangos, dragon fruits, jackfruits and many more, it should be the dreamland for vegetarian people. But once you sit down and read a Thai menu, you’ll soon realize that pork, chicken and shrimps is an obsession and fish sauce is one of their main ingredients in many Thai dishes.
When we first came to Bangkok and wanted to go out and eat vegetarian Thai food at those popular street food stalls, it was hard to find a place that actually sells vegetarian dishes. But there is one significant advantage for vegetarian or even vegan people; in most restaurants your food isn’t cooked until you order it, which means you can specify what you want or what you want to exclude from your dish. While there are some specific vegetarian restaurants only, many dishes in restaurants and street food stalls are mostly all with meat or seafood. In order to be able to order your dish as you would want it to be, it is helpful to understand the Thai view of vegetarianism.
Thai view of vegetarianism
Vegetarian in Thai means “mang sa wirat” (มังสวิรัติ). It includes the meaning of that you don’t eat meat or noticeable chunks of meat/seafood. Everything else like eggs, meat stock, fish sauce or other animal products would be still included, excluding the pieces of meat. If you don’t feel comfortable with other animal ingredients, you should order vegan dishes. The easiest way would be to use the Thai word “jay” (เจ). It is referring to people, who don’t eat meat/seafood, no animal products, no garlic and it even excludes a few herbs and vegetables with a too strong flavor.
Ordering vegetarian Thai food
Ordering vegetarian Thai food is not as hard as long as you try to say it in Thai, because a lot of street food sellers don’t speak English (or only a few words). This was an experience we made, when we first arrived in Bangkok and wanted to order a dish in english and the lady didn’t understand a word of what we wanted. Therefore, the first thing you should do is to tell them, that you’re a vegetarian: “mang sa wirat” (เป็นมังสวิรัต). If you’re scared that they’re using too many animal products, you can also say “gin jay” (กินเจ), which would entail you beeing vegan. When it comes to ordering the actual dish, you should emphasize again that you don’t want any meat/seafood in your meal: “mai gin neua sat” (ไม่กินเนื้อสัตว์). When you’re feeling comfortable speaking Thai, you can also add special requests like no fishsauce: “mai ow nam bplaa” (ไม่เอานำ้ปลา) or no oyster sauce: “mai ow nam man hoy” (ไม่เอาน้ำมันหอย).
While a lot of dishes are not traditionally prepared without meat, there are some delicious meals that are. An easy, quick and one of our favorite dishes to order would be “phad thai phak” which are fried noodles with vegetables. If you haven’t tried “phad see euw” (fried wide noodles), you should make sure not to miss it! It can also be ordered with eggs (“sai khai”). “Khao phat pak” (fried rice with vegetables) is a popular morning dish (and a really good one!), as well as tasty omelets with farm fresh eggs. “Pa pia sot” (fresh spring rolls), is a really good snack which may or may not come with shrimp wrapped inside, but at least the translucent rolls allow for a sneak peak. “Som tam” (spicy papaya salad) is a famous, amazing Thai dish, which you can request without the shrimps for the vegetarian version.
About Restaurants in Bangkok
Beside the popular street food stalls, there are also all vegetarian/vegan restaurants.
One of our favorite all-vegetarian restaurant is “Khun Churn” which is found in Sukhumvit Soi 42. It is a down-to-earth restaurant from Chiang Mai, where you can enjoy a diverse range of delicious vegetarian dishes. There is an extensive choice written in English and Thai, coupled with an explanation of the ingredients for each item on the menu (which is not necessarily the case in Thailand).
How to get there?
Further, there is one interesting recommendation for tourists; in one of the most touristy streets in Bangkok, the Kao San Road, there is a restaurant called “Mango”. It serves international vegetarian and vegan dishes using organic ingredients whenever possible. Starting from a falafel burger and ending with a tofu cheesecake with blueberries, the offerings are awesome.
How to get there?
Another favorite of ours is the fully vegetarian restaurant near to the Kao San Road named “Ethos”, which provides a unique and comfortable lounge environment. This restaurant offers vegan and gluten free delights dashed with wholesome goodness. We would highly recommend their giant shakes like the delightful fresh papaya lassi!
How to get there?
If you’re vegan, you should absolutely try out the “Broccoli Revolution” which is found a few hundred meters away from the BTS station Thong lo. The plant-based menu consists of hearty salads, Thai dishes with a modern vegan flair and the bestselling broccoli and quinoa burger slapped in between charcoal buns. And don’t forget to try their desserts, like their heavenly homemade soy ice cream!
How to get there?
These were just a few recommendations for our part. You can also walk around in Bangkok, explore and enjoy this beautiful and exciting city and have a look for a yellow flag with a red “17” on it, those are marked as vegetarian restaurants.