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.
Each Saturday this past month I’ve been dragging myself out of bed early to head into my 9-5pm intensive pattern-making and sewing course. It’s been mentally exhausting (who knew there’d be so much maths involved!) and quite physically exhausting. Friday nights are limited to dinner and a movie at most, while Saturdays nights mean crashing at 9pm. Bye bye social life!
But as exhausting as this new Saturday routine has been, it’s also been incredibly invigorating. My work has always involved a desk, while my leisure time is usually spent my consuming something – whether it’s food, the latest TV show, or a new travel destination.
Creativity and craft have been excluded from my life for the longest time, and it’s a revelation to re-embrace the joy of learning something new and making something with my own hands.
Sewing as an act of resistance
Beyond the delight of finding a new creative outlet, I’ve also started to viewing sewing as a powerful antidote to fast fashion.
We’re buying and getting rid of clothing at ridiculous rates. It’s never been easier to pop into a shop like H&M and buy an outfit for £20 that we’ll maybe wear three times before deciding we want something new.
High street shops are feeding our frenzy for the latest trends, changing up their collections every few weeks, instead of twice a year as it was in the past. Despite knowing the environmental and social costs of fast fashion, I’m not immune to walking past a shop and spontaneously buying a new top I don’t need just because it seems too irresistible a bargain.
But by learning to make my make my own clothes, I now have a massive appreciation for the huge amount of work that goes into making one garment. I’ve started paying attention to details – the cut, the seams, the fabric – that I had no interest in before.
I’m definitely not going to make every stitch of clothing I wear for the rest of my life. But I am going to think more carefully about what I buy and how to take care of it. This has so many other benefits I’ll reap over time:
Saving money on clothes
Making my own clothes may not necessarily work out cheaper than buying from the high street, but by understanding and appreciating what makes a quality garment, I’ll be more careful about investing in clothes that last, and probably spend less on clothes over time. I’ll also have the skills to mend wear and tear, and have the fun option of up-cycling cheap clothes from charity shops (this girl is my inspiration!)
Making less of an impact on the environment
Buying less clothing (especially crappy quality clothing) means I’ll also be contributing less to environmental destruction associated with fast fashion. The lifecycle of one garment has an incredible environmental impact, from the chemicals used to grow the raw material, to the toxins involved in dyes, and the textile waste resulting from our hunger for new clothes. By sourcing my own fabric as sustainably as possible, and reducing the amount of clothing I send to landfill, I will effectively be reducing my own negative impact on the environment.
Contributing less to the exploitation of other women
We know that exploitation is part and parcel of buying high street clothing, yet we still buy, drawn in by the lure of cheap pretty things. By shopping less from retailers that push for high production at the lowest prices, I’m also reducing my support for those exploitative practices. There’s a reason why the owner of Inditex (of Zara, and Pull & Bear) is one of the richest men on the planet. He’s sitting comfortably at the top of a value chain that is built of the backs of thousands of women often living and working under inhumane conditions for low wages.
Liberating myself from the tyranny of fashion trends
I often think of fashion trends as sophisticated brainwashing. Fifteen years ago I wore bootleg cut jeans. Now I wear skinnies. Why? Because the fashion industry reprogrammed my brain about what’s acceptable, and convinced me to go out and replace all of my perfectly wearable bootleg jeans. If I decide I want to embrace 50s style, but the fashion gods tell me that the 90s are in (why the hell would I want to wear the same stuff I wore as a tween?), I can tell them to f*off and instead make a dress from a 50s pattern, or customise a 50s dress I find in a vintage shop.
As you can tell, I’m finding learning how to sew quite empowering. But I also understand that the ready-made garment industry has also done us huge favours. Thankfully most women don’t need to be hunched over a sewing machine making clothes for their family like back in the day. We can buy the clothes we need even when we’re on a tight budget (although this does come with a cost we don’t immediately see on the price tag).
While sewing, crafts and other DIY may not change the world, I do think these small efforts can help us become more intentional about how we consume, and give us a greater appreciation of material things.
Overall I’m glad that I’ve re-discovered the joy of creativity, and that this new hobby perfectly aligns with my other passions and goals – environmentalism, minimalism, and saving money.
How about you? Have you discovered a new hobby you’re excited about? Do you love or hate DIY and crafts? Comment below!