It was my birthday this month, and instead of going out drinking and partying on the dance floor, I asked a few friends to join me for a civilised meal at my favorite vegan restaurant in Bangkok. I suppose I’m officially grown up!
For a Buddhist country, Thailand can be surprisingly difficult for vegetarians and vegans. Luckily there is a word that encapsulates the vegan diet – jay/jeh – derived from Jainism, but this goes even further than veganism by omitting garlic and onions. Jay restaurants tend to compensate for the lack of flavour by using lots of oil and salty, mock meats. It isn’t necessarily healthy, but it’s nice to eat every once in a while.
Depending on my mood, I’m either a vegetarian or pescatarian. Eating fish while living in Thailand makes things much easier. I don’t worry about the fish or oyster sauce in my food, and I can indulge in my favourite Thai dish, gaeng som, a thick tangy soup that usually comes with either fish or prawns. My partner isn’t vegetarian, but he limits his meat-eating to when he’s eating away from home.
When cooking at home, we mostly go vegan. Meals tend to revolve about beans and fresh vegetables, with some quinoa or brown rice thrown in for bulk. Even our baking and dessert-making tends to revolve around vegan recipes.
When we’re eating out, we tend to go to vegetarian places that are also vegan friendly. Most of the ones in malls are of the jay variety – serving typical Thai dishes cooked without meat, or with mock meat. But there are other vegetarian restaurants catering to the large Thai Indian community, and to the middle class/expat vegan crowd.
My top 10 vegan and vegetarian places in Bangkok
Here are my favourite spots, four of which are in food courts, and six of which are restaurants. Listed by price, low to high.
Terminal 21 has to be my favourite mall – each floor is themed on a different city, so you have a Tokyo floor, and a London floor for example. I end up there quite often for the food court. There are so many options and the meals cost around 30-50 THB. I usually head straight for the the vegetarian stall where I can get brown rice with two servings of veggies or curry for just 33THB. I then go and sit by the window and take in the amazing view.
I hardly go to MBK; I don’t really like the vibe and run-down feel, but I do occasionally go to the food court on the 6th floor. There’s a vegetarian stall there that sells all sorts of noodles, vegetables and curries. You can get seriously full on just 50THB.
This is the food court I frequent the most since it’s in my neighborhood. It’s bright, lively, and the vegetarian stall has noodles, which some other veggie stalls don’t have. Brown rice and two sides costs just 80THB, while a bowl of noodles costs about the same. Emporium on the other side of the street has the same vegetarian stall in their food court, so we go there as well sometimes.
Central World, Siam
I never knew Central World had a food court until about last year. It’s hidden behind the food hall on the 7th floor. There’s a vegetarian stall there that has more options than other food courts, and things are mostly made fresh to order. It’s slightly pricier with dishes costing upwards of 80 THB.
We go to the Chinatown/Pahurat end of town on occasion to stock up on almonds, seeds, and dried fruit. When we’re there, we always stop by Punjab Sweets. In addition to the mouth-watering sweets they serve, they also have Indian street snacks like pani puri and chaat. Their dosas are also very good, and very affordable at less than 200 THB.
This was one of the first restaurants we ate at on our first trip to Bangkok seven years ago. It’s a tiny little place, and feels so cozy (the ‘hometaurant’ description is very apt), and the food and fresh juices are just so good.
This place is conveniently near Benjakitti park, so if I’ve been there for outdoor yoga, or a jog, I tend to stop by for a healthy vegan meal. They have typical Thai dishes, including delicious curries and soups, as well as vegan sushi and burgers. I usually pay around 250 THB.
Saras is a vegetarian and vegan restaurant serving the large Thai-Indian community around Sukhumvit. It has food from all the different regions of India, plus Indian-style Chinese food, which is apparently something quite specific. We tend to share a large thali and a starter. Each day they have about 6 different thalis, and these change according to the day of the week. That means they have 42 thalis to try out!! Saras is a bit more expensive than other Indian restaurants nearby, but the quality is worth it. We usually pay around 350 THB each.
Broc Rev is a bit hit and miss with their vegan food, but I always end up going back for their broccoli quinoa charcoal burger. The place itself is very nice: plants cascading from a high ceiling, and with a lively atmosphere. We typically pay around 350 THB.
This is the place I took my friends for my birthday. It’s located right behind Benjasiri park, so it’s a nice walk to get there, and it’s in a quiet spot with a really chilled vibe. They have dishes all brunchers would recognise: avocado toast, acai bowls, and vegan versions of fry-ups. For lunch and dinner, they have wraps, burgers, and yummy Buddha bowls with spiralised courgette. I usually follow up with a more indulgent vegan dessert or shake. With dessert, we usually pay around 450 THB.
Other notable mentions:
Eat Thai @ Central Embassy vegetarian stall
Gateway Ekkamai food court vegetarian staff
Barefood Bangkok in Ekkamai for amazing vegan cheese
Honey Bear Bistro in Ekkamai – this is not a vegetarian place, but their Buddha bowls are vegan friendly
I hope that Bangkok becomes more vegan and vegetarian friendly; not just by opening more expensive vegan places, but by making healthy, vegetarian food an affordable option for everybody.