Well, well, unfortunately not one blog I read on this before I left to Thailand. And, boy, was in for a shock! 🙂
Me & my wife did struggle a bit to find no-meat food even at the popular restaurants in Thailand. Here is what happened to us at McDonalds, Phuket:
McD boy Sawa dee
Me Do you have veg burger?
McD boy Arai?
Me Do you have vegetable burger?
McD boy <blank expression>
Me Do you have burger with no meat?
McD boy <blank expression>
Me NO MEAT.
McD boy <WTF expression>
Me Forget it. Thank you.
Same jazz happened at Subway as well. Surprisingly, at Subway, they have veggie delight in the menu and yet when I mentioned it they all looked like I spoke some Martian language! Then I had to hand-guide the guy at the counter to the overhead menu and show him what I wanted!! They were surprised somebody is even ordering a Veggie delight!!
After few attempts such similar attempts, we ended up going only to Indian restaurants run by Pakistanis who speak Hindi! 🙂
Why will vegetarians struggle?
All said, I ain’t saying there are no vegetarian food out there. Just saying it is difficult to order a vegetarian dish. Let me set it up for you guys clearly:
Thai people aren’t comfortable with English (link)
Yes, they speak English. No, they don’t know English. An average Thai vendor can speak basic English like ask you ‘how many?’ and can respond to ‘how much?’ Having said that, sometimes, you will be surprised that they can comfortably ask ‘how many?’ but when you say ‘six’, they will look blank! So you gotta finger gesture to them! Similarly, when you ask how much they carry a calculator and type in that for you to understand. So, to the meat-centric society explaining a vegetarian dish isn’t easy!
Thai cuisine is _not_ vegetarian-friendly (link)
Though Buddhism is the popular religion (around 94.6% of the population – link) and Buddhism discourages consumption of meat, Thai cuisine is meat based! Though there are some non-meat dishes but one can not avoid meat for the entire meal. So, if you want a meal with no-meat whatsoever you are in for a super mess. 🙂
Breads & buns at the supermarket also contains meat
This was where I got a reality check. Went to a supermarket to pick up some biscuits & bread but we spent more than 30 minutes hunting through the well-organized shelves for some vegetarian baked product without worried about how it tastes.
How to survive?
Okies… Now does this mean the world has ended for vegetarians? So what options does one have? Well these definitely helped us a lot!
A 24-hours super-store which was our source of survival throughout the trip. Every town we went we always at the closest 7-Eleven (mostly, right opposite to where we stayed) and picked our breakfast & such stuff. Once you get a hang of what is available the subsequent visits are quick and direct to the only available ‘vegetarian’ section! 🙂 In about THB 120, one can get a decent amount of cream buns, stuffed bread, chocolate brownies, biscuits & 5-ltr water can,
RoadsideThai crepe (youtube link)
Oh, this is heaven! The road-side food here was fabulous. Firstly, they are surprisingly cheap. Then the major ingredient is fresh fruits, mostly, mango and banana. The preparation time is less than 2 minutes. It is served fresh & hot. Surprisingly it is quite filling as well. Can’t replace dinner or lunch but definitely serves as a perfect snack. You can get this everywhere along the beach road. And, they cost you a mere THB 50 (or 60).
RoadsideThai fried sweet potato balls
Another super awesome stuff. Don’t miss this. This is another surprisingly brilliant tasting snack. They give you this brown paper bag sprinkled with something like pepper and it is such a heavenly tasting stuff. This, again costs you about THB 50 and it is good. You can get this on the Bangla Street.
For Indians vegetarians, the best option is to walk into a restaurant with a Hindi-speaking owner. Also they give 20% discount to Indians. 😀 These are the following restaurants we had been during our vacations there:
- Ali Baba: The food okay. The quantity is less. Very less. The cost is high. Quite high. It costed us THB 500 (~ 550) for a partial lunch for 2 of us!
- Alaha Din: Only restaurant we visited more than once. Good food. Better priced. Better quantity. Wonderful host/owner. For THB 350 (~400) for a good decent dinner. Warning: Don’t try Thai cuisine in here. Stick to Indian 🙂 Also tea is good here. Unable to find that on maps but it is on the Karon Beach Road in one of the tiny alley. Do look for this and go. Don’t miss out.
- Noori: The food was good. They gave a lesser discount of 15% only but the visit was worth it. For THB 370, we had sumptuous dinner.
Flat out instruction for survival. Go to Indira Square, Pratunam. There more than dozen Indian Pure veg restaurants there. The difference between other towns & Bangkok is:
- It is much cheaper. For THB 230, we had good North Indian Thali including sweet 🙂
- There is no concept of discounts
JFYI, we had food at:
I hope these were helpful in planning your trip to Thailand. 🙂