Bangkok is known for a lot of things, but food is probably the thing that people write, blog, film, and talk about the most. It’s everywhere here – on the street, in shops, food courts, pop-up booths, hotel buffets and Michelin starred restaurants. The variety is endless, but there are a few barriers to entry for newbies trying to navigate the food landscape, particularly if the New Year has inspired you to turn over a new leaf in your diet.
Initially, Westerners may be perplexed that finding true vegetarian meals in such a Buddhist majority country can be so challenging. Subsistence overcomes doctrine when the luxury of choice and economics is not abundant. Vegetarians often have a steep learning curve when they come to Bangkok, because here, “vegetarian” can mean a lot of things. Most Thais just consider it to mean “no meat,” so simply telling a food vendor “no meat” might result in dishes with eggs, dairy, or even ingredients made with stock or other trace amounts of animal-based product. Not to mention, just about every Thai dish calls for fish sauce.
Eh, close enough, some people would say, but if you want to ensure that the places you go to are as serious about veggie food as you are, a trustworthy list can be found through a helpful website (that most vegans probably already know about) called Happy Cow, which will point you to over 230 vegan friendly restaurants and street food stalls in Bangkok.
However we’ve created a shortlist of some of our favorite vegetarian food joints in the Big Mango.
This long-time favorite has several locations around the world, from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to New York. They’re all great, with unique recipes developed by May Kaidee herself, but we think the best place to indulge is in Bangkok (we might be a bit biased). There’s also a cooking school and cookbook you can take back home.
Everything is 100% plant-based, dairy-free and egg-free, and they have a selection of gluten-free and nut-free healthy food. They have four branches along Sukhumvit road now and all the veg people we know go crazy for this place.
Probably the first time in history that these two words have been used together. It makes for a strange-sounding place, but it works! Creative veggie food, cold-pressed juice and vegan desserts have kept this place hopping.
You’ll get a lot of weird looks if you walk around Bangkok asking simply for “mango” but if you’re near Khao San Road, you’ll end up at this highly-rated place. Patrons comment on the freshness of ingredients and large servings – plus, it’s an art gallery with rotating displays of work, so there’s always something new to look at.
Vegetarian Italian food joints are in short supply, but this one nails all the right elements. Soy-infused pizza and pasta dishes, plus gluten-free options have earned Govinda a perennial spot on the list of the top ten veggie places in Asia.
This is a great vegan nut-cheese place near Ekamai Road. They make rich creamy cheese from cashews. The truffle cheese there is perhaps one of the best things we’ve ever tasted.
Or Tor Kor
Known as one of the biggest, freshest, and cleanest markets in Bangkok, Or Tor Kor isn’t strictly vegetarian, but it has a huge (more like huuuuuuuuge) selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, with plenty of places to buy, try, and eat fully prepared dishes. If you buy food here, you can bet it’s going to be top-notch.
If you have the luxury of choosing the time to visit Bangkok for the best and largest selection of vegetarian food, aim for the Vegetarian Festival that lasts nine days over September and October throughout Thailand (28 September – 07 October, 2019).
With a little knowledge and effort, vegetarians can not only get by in Bangkok, but enjoy some of the best vegetarian food in the world. Floating Lotus in Ginger Syrup and Mango and sticky rice is never far away!