I have been in Thailand twice, and visited the country from north to south, east to west and several islands from both seas. Thailand was the firsts country I visited in Southeast Asia and since then fell in love for that part of the globe.
If you are planning to travel there, be prepared to be astonished with its exotic, luxurious and unspoiled natural areas, colorful places, interesting temples, nice, smiley and laid-back people, great weather, unbelievable beaches, maniac drivers, and at last but not the least THE FOOD….
From my personal experience, I need to say that’s fairly easy to have a vegan/vegetarian diet in Thailand. Even when you adventure yourself out of the big cities and you go to places that haven’t seen many Foreigners.
I found that being vegan in Thailand is often deeply respected as Thailand is a predominately Buddhist country. There is a big prevalence of soy products, like milk and tofu, and traditionally Thai food doesn’t contain dairy, this includes desserts 🙂 so your main concern will mainly involve the use of eggs.
Fruit stands, fresh markets, night markets and street stalls are very abundant. You will have so many vegan options to choose from, that looks like heaven. All my meals included fresh veggies, fruit (so much fruit), rice or rice noodles, juices and Coconut Water and may I say fruit again 🙂
The fruit is just amazing, you definitely need to try Mango, Mangosteen, Rambutan, Pineapple, dragon fruit, Custard Apple, Langsat, Longan, watermelon and, Coconut.
The fruit is so delicious that I just couldn’t have enough of it… and you will understand why…
The only problem is what they cook with. They tend to use fish sauce, oyster sauce, and shrimp paste a lot, so be careful, prepared and relaxed knowing that most of the times communication is not the best, so make sure you explain that you are vegan/vegetarian and you don’t consume shrimp paste (gapi), oyster sauce (sot hoi naag rom), and fish sauce (nam bplaa). In some odd occasions I even needed to add that I don’t eat chicken too 😀
If you can’t communicate your needs and you’re feeling uncomfortable just politely decline and move on to another location. you will see that everyone will smile and be kind to you. I like to eat in the street stalls and markets, from my experience people is really nice and will try to do something for you even if is not in their “menu” but be prepared to be persuaded to have their normal dish because they think what you are asking is not going to be delicious 🙂 Try not to be to picky and expect them to cook using the same pans where they did the chicken, fish and shrimps.
I found that the easiest way is to say that you follow a jay diet, which translates as strict vegan, but with no garlic and onions. So you can look for the national sign: a bright yellow flag with “Jay” (เจ) written in red, looks like a 17. You can find this sign almost everywhere from restaurants, food stalls or supermarket packages. The restaurants are not too expensive and the food is great.
I found that looking for Taoist temples which have also restaurants is great as well, they are vegan, the price is usually low and they use lots of really delicious textured vegetable.
It’s also good to know that Thailand hosts a great annual national vegetarian festival called teet-sa-kan kin jay, so you can always try to travel during those dates (9th lunar month of the Chinese calendar) you will not regret.
Happy Cow is a very useful tool to find restaurants.
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha