While finding veggie and vegan food in rural areas and fishing villages can be more of a challenge, eating animal-free in big cities across Thailand and Vietnam didn’t prove to be any effort during the time I was there. In fact, even in the middle of nowhere it was pretty easy to find stir fried veg or a tofu curry, which means the only thing you really need to watch out for while travelling is sneakily added oyster or fish sauce.
Plenty of usually omnivorous travellers switch to veggie or vegan diets while they’re away in order to avoid the risk of food poisoning from shifty meat and dubious egg, and Bangkok transpired to be almost as good as Saigon in terms of how much choice there was for plant-based diets. The fact that so many Thai people are Buddhist means that vegetarianism is a well-understood concept here, though egg noodles and things fried in egg will be your two main opponents on the hunt for vegan cuisine.
The easiest things to get your hands on, without fail, are eggless Pad Thai and stir-fried vegetables with rice. Almost every street food cart that sells Pad Thai makes it with rice noodles, but it’s worth learning how to pronounce ‘without egg’ and ‘without fish sauce’ because while plenty of Thai people speak English, a) not everyone does and b) it’s polite to at least try and speak the language of the country you’re in.
Apps like NOM NOM NOM, Veggoagogo and V Cards are all good if you need a little help explaining (and NOM NOM NOM also has translations for a variety of allergies and other dietary requirements) but even something like the Learn Thai phrasebook should see you through.
If you’re visiting Bangkok anytime soon, here are a few good places to head to fill your face with tasty vegan grub;
May Veggie Home
8/3 Sukhumvit Soi 16, Asoke Sukhumvit Intersection
This place is right around the corner from the Asoke BTS stop, and it is 100% vegan – including the bakery and the ice cream section. The menu is pretty extensive and covers everything from tofu and vegetable versions of things like Massaman and Panang curry to vegan Katsu ‘chicken’ and even ‘tuna’ salad. They even offer a delivery service via and English-speaking line if you don’t fancy venturing out from your hostel in search of feeding, and the prices are definitely budget travel friendly, with full meals at around 100BHT (about £2).
Chamlong’s Asoke Vegetarian Restaurant
Chatuchak Market is great for about 1000 reasons, and though this place is inexpensive I’d recommend taking spending money because it’s surrounded by stalls selling all kinds of cool/mad stuff. Chamlong’s is run by a Buddhist organisation and while all the food is veggie it isn’t all vegan – and you won’t find any English menus to help you decipher what’s what, so prepare for some delicious mystery food and practise your best Thai for those ‘no egg/milk?’ moments. Open from 6am until 2/3pm, Chamlong’s is a self-service buffet where you can load up on stir-fries and summer rolls to your hearts content, just cross the road from Chatuchak Exit 1. (The full directions in the Happy Cow link above will help you navigate the alleys to get there)
7/24 M7 Khlong Song, Khlong Luang, Pathum Thani
Seeing ‘Morning Glory’ on a menu never fails to make me laugh, but the stir-fried water spinach (to use it’s less amusing name) at Chan-Pak was pretty special – particularly given that unlike just about every other place you can eat in Thailand, these guys don’t use onion or garlic to flavour their food. Allergies and intolerances unite! A substantial bowl of noodle soup will only set you back around 150BHT, and this venue is wheelchair accessible as well as offering delivery, so everyone can get in on the action. It’s also fully vegan, so no need to worry about cracking out your bad Thai accent.
Last but not least… Veganerie
4th Floor Mercury Ville Mall, Sukhumvit Road
Everyone, at some point, wants a break from rice and noodles. When you’re eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for months on end, it can get a bit repetitive. But, behold! For here is Veganerie, a haven of deliciousnes in the Mercury Ville Mall, open from 10am ’til 10pm daily. You can have a vegan fry up if you’re in the mood, or dive right in to piles of waffles and pancakes with cow-free icecream to boot. Chocolate brownie milkshake anyone? Oh go on then. By Thai standards it isn’t the cheapest, but it’s cheaper than gorging on a crate of pastries at home in the UK would be. If you’ve got cravings for European cuisine, go and indulge. All those rice and veg meals have probably shed you a few pounds you can afford to add back in red velvet waffles anyway.
If you’re all about that street-food life but tired of Pad Thai, stock up on roadside roti and chilli-coated BBQ, though check for roti vendors who fry in coconut or vegetable oil rather than ghee. Natural coconut icecream with sweet sticky rice is also an epic choice (available at various stands in Chatuchak if you’ve failed to spot it elsewhere) along with Pad Phuk Tong (stir-fried pumpkin), papaya salad and Tao Hoo Song Kreung (mixed tofu served over steamed rice).
Between a translation app, Happy Cow and Google Maps, you can’t go too far wrong.