How To Survive Being A Vegetarian In Bangkok
Meat-loving Bangkok may seem like the last place for vegetarians to venture beyond bread and fruit, but there are a few things you can do to make your life easier being a vegetarian or vegans in the city.
This includes knowing where to go to eat out, what to say at a restaurant and where to go for ingredients if you’re doing the cooking.
How to ask for meat-free food
You should know the basic terms for meat-free and animal products. The word ‘Jey’ or ‘Jeh’ refers to food that doesn’t contain any animal products including eggs and fish sauce.
On the other hand, if you’re okay with dairy and eggs, you can ask for ‘mangsawirat’ food.
Learn your basic dining phrases (you can find them online and print out for quick reference) and they will come in handy if you want to survive as a vegetarian in this city and anywhere else in Thailand.
Where to go for ingredients
With street food in general, it’s hard to avoid the ubiquitous fish sauce.
Stores like Thaican Veggie World and restaurant finder resources like HappyCow will help you find the nearest veggie foods near you.
Cooking for yourself with fresh ingredients from the local veggie and fruit market is probably the easiest way to make sure that you’re sticking to your preferred diet.
Eating out for vegetarians
Every vegetarian has the day when they want to eat out. Bangkok is not all seafood, fish sauce and red and white meats, though you can’t always be sure the papaya salad you ordered doesn’t contain salted crab or dry shrimp or your vegetarian dish hasn’t been fried in the same oil as other meat dishes.
That’s why it’s important to know where to go for veggie meals in Bangkok – there are a few vegan eateries popping up across the city as the demand goes up.
If you’re up for some Indian food, you’ll have plenty of choices, but the best of these may be Dosa King of Sukhumvit Road.
Every meal here is vegetarian but you’ll also find vegan meals such as bhindi masalas (an okra preparation), alu chat (boiled potatoes tossed with spices) and dosas.
Rasayana Retreat’s Raw Food Cafe offers just that – delicious lasagnas, soups, pizza, sushi and other dishes packed with the flavors of raw vegetables, fruit, grains, nuts and herbs, without any cooking involved.
The upscale Govinda Italian Restaurant in Sukhumvit offers plenty of vegan-friendly alternatives such as egg-less pasta, soy cheese and meat substitutes.
If you enjoy classic Thai flavors, try the two branches of May Kaidee which serve meat-free versions of classic Thai food like som tom, pad Thai, curries, steamed noodles etc.
Make the most of Kin Jay
If you head to Chinatown during the Tesakan Kin Jay or Vegetarian Festival typically held in late September to early October, you’ll find a large portion of the population eats nothing but vegetarian food for nine days during the 9th lunar month on the Chinese calendar.
Vegans can enjoy this cleansing festival by feast into vegan fare “ahaan jay” sold on the streets of Chinatown alongside a carnival-like atmosphere. You’ll find a dizzying variety of vegan dishes and finger foods, including healthy vegan curries kap khao style, grilled lotus root, fried bean cakes, vegetable dumplings, and sautéed noodles with meat substitutes etc. Pungent foods like onion and garlic are typically avoided at this time.
It is also advisable to make friends with a local, and they’ll be able to give you more local advice on how you can enjoy healthy, delicious meals as a non-meat-eater. With a little research, you don’t have to be afraid to venture beyond the grocery store for your meals.