Vegetarians & Vegans travelling Thailand
Wherever you are in the world, having specific dietary requirements or choices can become a bit of a game.
Sometimes choosing between going hungry or consuming foods you don’t really want to put in your body.
In the more touristy parts of Thailand, Vegetarians & vegans are well catered for. With many specific Vegan & Vegetarian only restaurants, cafes & hang outs popping up all over the place.
It seems that Veganism & vegetarianism is becoming more wide spread across the world, year by year it is more common practice, especially amongst travellers, so it’s to be expected for tourists to be catered for more & more.
Where the specific vegan & vegetarian restaurants will have everything your body desires, and more! There is an obvious divide between those places & the non-vegetarian places; ask for coconut milk in your coffee in a standard café & you’ll get a very confused response. It seems to be all or nothing.
That said, it is pretty common practice to be able to switch any meat or fish to tofu in a dish, if you are understood, you may want to brush up on some key words in Thai language that will make your requests run a little smoother!
What about prices? Does it cost more to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet?
It all depends.
Most street food places will have a huge range of foods. Although meats on sticks are everywhere you look, so are things like tofu, vegetables, potatoes & fruits.
Street food is always super cheap, so in that case, no, eating vegan or vegetarian is cheaper.
On the flip side, take yourself into a specialised vegan restaurant & you may find the prices have been bumped up a little, this is often down to using organic produce, which is of course much more expensive for traders to source. The health awareness that comes attached to the stereotypical vegan diet, tends to go part & parcel with other areas.
As well as organic, you’ll find very nutritious foods on the menu, from pre-& probiotic cultures, fermented foods & power herbs!
You get what you pay for
Some traditional Thai dishes that are suitable for or have been adapted into vegan or vegetarian you can expect to find;
Khao Soi – this traditional northern Thailand dish that consists of noodles in a coconut & tomato based cream, a chicken leg, crunchy nik naks on the top, has been adapted using pumpkin in replacement of the chicken, incredibly tasty & full of goodness!
Burmese tea leaf salads – be prepared to sweat with these, typically they are served SPICY! So, ask for no spice if you want a tamer version! A mix of soft pickled leaves (green tea) & crunchy beans, toasted nuts, seeds & other salad bits!
Papaya salad (Som Tum) – again, this is SPICY! Very spicy! Using unripe papaya, shredded up with a blend of unique herbs & spices, this popular dish can be found on street food markets & in many restaurants.
Stir fried morning glory – Another very popular dish that can be found in most Thai restaurants, usually this uses a fish or oyster sauce so if you are non-fish, be sure to state vegetarian to ensure its made to your requirements! This dish is a stir-fried mix of morning glory (a Thai green vegetable) & water spinach, cooked in garlic & chilli!
Tofu Pad Thai – Many places cooking Pad Thai will have a vegetarian or vegan option, removing the meat (& egg if you wish), replacing it with tofu & extra vegetables, sometimes cashew nuts too. Pad Thai simply means fried noodles!
A dish made in minutes in front of your eyes in many street food markets, stir frying a choice of noodle types, with beansprouts & a tasty unidentified sauce! Topped with your choice of non-meat (tofu/egg) & chopped peanuts & lime added by you if you wish.
Vegetarian curry (Gang Jay) – Thai restaurants are bursting with curry, from green curry, yellow curry, Massaman curry, panang curry, so many variations!
Specific restaurants will have incredible meat free versions of these traditional Thai curry’s, bursting with flavour!
If it is a meat version on the menu, it’s usually standard practice to be able to switch to tofu, making it a ‘Gang Jay’.
Fruit smoothies & juices – available EVERYWHERE! A great way to stay hydrated & top up on vitamins!
Most smoothies will be made with a lot of ice, so these tasty treats will keep you hydrated.
Some specific smoothie bars will have a range of super herbs like wheatgrass & spirulina to add for a little extra Baht.
These establishments are usually the ones that will also have a range on non-dairy milks like coconut, almond or soy too.
It’s not common practice to find milk based smoothies from street vendors, they are typically just fruit shakes, so you’ll be getting fruit, ice & water, blended!
State if you would like sugar or not, it is standard to have sugar & syrup added unless you say otherwise!
There are many travellers who are on the brink of becoming vegetarian or vegan before coming to Thailand & actually find that the culture & the accessibility of these foods actually make it incredibly easy to make the full transition.
Many spiritual practices, retreat centres & such, won’t have any meat or fish available, so following suit with these lifestyle practices is a given.
Although you are not in the minority by any means by being a vegan or veggie, be prepared to see animals awaiting their dinner plate fate when wandering around.
Fish swimming around buckets before becoming lunch is common practice on the markets!
But rest assured, travelling Thailand as a vegetarian or vegan is EASY! You are not alone & will be well catered for!
There are convenience stores (particularly the famous 7/11) on every street in established parts of Thailand (most tourist areas), which supply all the obvious snacks like nuts, seeds & fruits, so you can always access these diet friendly foods!