There are many things to look forward to when traveling to a foreign country, such as exploring a new culture, traversing new places, and partaking in exhilarating excursions. But, the best part of visiting another country is trying out the traditional cuisine you have never tasted before. If you are a plant-based eater, you may wonder if you will have access to foods that you can eat when traveling.
Today’s article will discuss all things vegan and vegetarian in Thailand, such as certain dishes to try and where to find them. Additionally, we will explore the commonality and history of plant-based eating in Thailand.
What Is The Difference Between Vegetarianism and Veganism?
Those who don’t follow a plant-based diet may find all the labels confusing. To clarify, vegetarian is the word to describe an individual who doesn’t eat meat of any kind. A vegetarian may indulge in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, dairy products, and grains.
Vegan is a term that describes a person who will not eat meat or any other products from an animal, this includes dairy products, honey, or any seafood. Usually, a vegan’s diet will consist of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains. Some dedicated vegans will not even use items that have been made or tested on animals, such as fibers like wool or leather or cosmetic products.
As well as vegan and vegetarian, some may have also heard the term pescatarian. A pescatarian is someone who won’t eat meat but will eat seafood. Pescatarians will typically eat fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, dairy products, grains, shellfish, crustaceans, and fish.
Are Veganism And Vegetarianism Common In Thailand?
In Thailand, veganism and vegetarianism aren’t foreign concepts. There are even a few traditional Thai dishes that are vegan and vegetarian. Not to mention the numerous fruit stands all over the country. However, not many people follow a plant-based diet in Thailand, and being vegan or vegetarian in Thailand is slightly different from being a plant-based eater in other countries.
Many people believe that since 95% of people in Thailand are Buddhists, there is an extensive vegetarian and vegan population, but this is not true. While many Buddhists in other cultures refrain from eating meat, it is optional for Thai Buddhists. Only about 8% of people in Thailand don’t eat meat and other animal products. But plant-based eating is becoming more and more popular in Thailand. It is predicted that by 2025, 15% of the Thai population will follow a plant-based diet.
There have also been more and more plant-based options available in restaurants and groceries throughout Thailand in recent years. So while not a large number of the Thai population is vegetarian or vegan, there are plenty of options for locals and tourists visiting the country who follow a plant-based diet. One thing that is important to remember as a vegan or vegetarian traveling in Thailand is when you go out to eat, you should let your server know that you follow a plant-based diet. You can do this by saying that you are “jay,” which is the closest word they have to vegan, and it translates to a person who doesn’t eat any animal products, meat, seafood, and even some particular herbs and spices that are too potent like garlic.
What Should Vegans and Vegetarians Eat When Traveling To Thailand?
There are various plant-based options to choose from when visiting Phuket Thailand. Additionally, since many Thai dishes in restaurants are made fresh to order, many recipes can be altered to make them vegan or vegetarian. Here are some of the best vegan and vegetarian dishes that you should try out on your next trip to Thailand:
Pad Phuk Tong: A traditional Thai vegetarian dish containing stir-fried pumpkin, egg, tofu, and basil.
Kaeng Hed Jeh: A spicy vegetarian mushroom soup with shitake, galangal, tamarind, and chilies.
Tao Hoo Song Kreung: A deep-fried tofu dish with a gravy-like sauce with basil and mixed vegetables.
Makua Yao: A vegan stir-fried eggplant dish containing basil, garlic, and chilies.
Pad Thai: A traditional and trendy stir-fried noodle dish that can be made vegan or vegetarian and usually has tofu, bean sprouts, peanuts, and various mixed vegetables.
Tom Yum Jeh: A spicy and sour soup loaded with plenty of vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, and tomatoes.
Pak Boong: A vegan stir-fried morning glory dish with fermented soybean paste, garlic, and chilies.
Khanom Kai Nok Krata: A famous vegan Thai street food appetizer; small deep-fried dough balls made from tapioca, sweet potato, cinnamon, and coconut sugar.
Gang Jay: A vegetarian or vegan curry that can be made with numerous varieties of ingredients, including but not limited to tofu, sweet potato, green beans, chilies, and peanuts.
Pad Krapow: A spicy, vegetarian stir-fried tofu dish with basil, garlic, ginger, and mixed vegetables.
Where Should Vegans and Vegetarians Eat In Thailand?
Now that you know some phenomenal vegan and vegetarian Thai dishes to try out, you need to know where to find them! Here are a four of the best places in Thailand to get plant-based food:
Anchan, Chiang Mai
Anchan is an excellent option for plant-based food in Chiang Mai. They serve primarily vegan food but have a few dishes that are just vegetarian. They are located on Nimmanhaemin Road and are popular amongst the locals or expats. One of the top dishes on the menu is the Banana Flower Thai Salad.
Rasayana Raw Cafe, Bangkok
Rasayana Raw Cafe is one of the best places for vegans and vegetarians or health-conscious individuals to go in Bangkok! In addition to the fact that they serve only gourmet vegan food, it is also raw, ideal for those trying to eat healthily. They offer mainly spins on classic Western dishes, and one of the favorite dishes here is the Eggplant Lasagna.
Yo Green, Phuket
Yo Green is located right off of the famous Bangla Road. It specializes in vegan and vegetarian food and has many plant-based ‘meat.’ One dish you should try out at Yo Green is their red curry fried rice.
The Thai Vegetarian Festival, Phuket
The Thai Vegetarian Festival is the ultimate event for all the vegans and vegetarians! It is a nine-day celebration in the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The Thai vegetarian festival has Chinese origin but is celebrated by Thai people with and without Chinese ancestry. At the festival, you will find a plethora of mainly vegan or jay food at many stands all over the event. As mentioned before, those who eat jay won’t eat any animal products or meat, but they also don’t drink alcohol, abstain from sex, and behave respectably at all times.
While the festival’s primary purpose is delicious vegan food, it is not the only thing you will witness at this festival. Before attending this festival, be forewarned that there are people who act as masongs, a medium for the Gods. While they attend the festival, they will go into a trance and complete rituals that include piercing specific body parts with knives, needles, and even guns. So while the Thai vegetarian festival is a fantastic event for vegans and vegetarians to attend, it might not be the optimal attraction for those bothered by highly graphic and gory acts or who have a weak stomach.
Sometimes it can be tricky for a vegan or vegetarian to find food options in other countries. Many people want to experience different cultures and cuisines but don’t want to worry about compromising their beliefs or eating styles. Luckily Thailand has lots of options. While Thailand may not have as large of a vegan or vegetarian population as other places in Asia, plant-based eating is gaining popularity. Numerous restaurants serve vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based options, and many traditional Thai dishes can be modified to be meatless. So for all the vegans and vegetarians looking for their next vacation destination, consider Thailand and try out some delicious, traditional Thai plant-based dishes! On our day trip boat MV Mermaid we have a chef onboard who can prepare most requested options with some prior warning. So what are you waiting for come and have a look at the options you have for scuba dive Phuket with us here at Thailand Divers.