Let me start with a question: Have you ever been to Thailand? The Land of Smiles is known for its hospitality and it’s a tourist magnet. Indians, in particular, are sixth in the list of top nationalities visiting Thailand. Every year, about 16 lakh travellers touchdown in the South East Asian country. Reasons? It’s cheap, it’s close and it’s safe. It’s also a great destination for weddings, with hotels and resorts offering dreamy settings (on the beach, on a clifftop, in gardens and parks).
However, finding vegetarian dishes in Thailand may be a task. Before I travelled to Bangkok and Krabi earlier this year, I didn’t realise that seafood and meats were so loved in the country. All three of us in the group had different food preferences (food allergies, vegan, pseudo non-vegetarian), so picking a restaurant was a fun task. In the process, I discovered that almost everything is cooked in fish oil and their choice of garnish is dried shrimp. It’s lovely food, but vegetarians have to be extra careful while trying local delicacies (especially since communication is bit of a problem).
So to help out fellow women travellers, I have picked five vegetarian dishes that are authentic and yum.
Five Vegetarian Dishes In Thailand You Can’t Resist
Thailand, like any other tourist-friendly destination, has many fast food options. You will also find Chinese, Italian, Indian, Mexican and Mediterranean restaurants across the country, but your visit is incomplete without a taste of its local cuisine and flavours. So if you want to try authentic Thai dishes on your trip, just remember the names of these vegetarian dishes and order away.
- Green Papaya Salad: Som Tam, or papaya salad, is one of the most iconic dishes in Thailand. Made with green papaya, beans and tomatoes with peanuts, tamarind, garlic and chillies, this colourful salad packs a range of flavours: sweet, salty and spicy. Not just restaurants, but street vendors also serve this on carts and sticky rice makes a great combination with this. Remember to ask at restaurants if they’ve used fish oil (and if it can be replaced with vegetable oil) and definitely tell them not to add dried shrimp as garnish.
- Mango And Sticky Rice: In one word: YUM! This is the ultimate Thai dessert and makes for a delightful lunch (if you have a sweet tooth). Easily available at supermarkets, restaurants and on the streets, the combination of sticky rice with cut mangoes and coconut milk is delicious. Make it your go-to meal in Thailand in the summer months (peak mango season) and keep it handy whenever hunger pangs strike. It expires quickly, so buy and eat.
- Vegetable Pad Thai: Every street vendor serves different variations of pad thai (stir-fried rice noodles), with most including meats and seafood. However, you can easily say no to these and just get the veggies tossed in the wok. Again, sticky rice complements pad thai really well and it’s a full meal if you add a salad to the table (look at #1).
- Pad Phak: Stir-fried vegetables, mixed with spices and sugar, is another dish that’ll keep you satisfied. It’s a simple dish with mushroom, tofu, broccoli, kale and other greens tossed together. Food courts and street vendors will have this on the menu, but make sure you tell them you’d prefer the vegetarian version (without seafood or meats).
- Tofu Green Curry: Of course, there’s a vegetarian version of the famous Thai curry. When you replace the meat with tofu and fish sauce with soy, you get the perfect vegan version that you can order at restaurants.
You can’t walk on any street of Bangkok without the aromas of garlic, salads and meats hitting your nostrils. I tried street-side pizza, mango smoothies, satays and noodles, and it was a wonderful experience. So even if you don’t eat meats, check out the markets and take delights in the sights and flavours.
Learn To Say It In Thai
To be on the safe side, memorise a few short sentences to communicate that you’re a vegetarian or vegan in Thai. This blog is useful.
- I am vegetarian: C̄hạn mạngs̄wirạti
- I am vegan: C̄hạn gin jey
Luckily, the tourism board has curated a list of restaurants that have a variety of vegetarian dishes in Thailand. Check them out here.
Thinking of planning a trip? Check out these women-only travel groups in India that can make it much easier for you to fly out.
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