Is Thailand Vegan Friendly? Vegan Phrases, Dishes, Destinations And More

Is Thailand Vegan Friendly? Vegan Phrases, Dishes, Destinations And More
May 4, 2019 Sandis Mukans
Vegan Thailand

It is relatively easy to be vegan in Thailand. Especially in such touristy areas as in Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai because there are more vegan shops, cafes, and restaurants available than elsewhere in Thailand where it might be a challenge to find vegan food.

To make Thailand for vegan travelers easier to understand I will share some facts and tips about the vegan lifestyle in Thailand.

So, is Thailand vegan-friendly? With many new 100% vegan restaurants in Thailand and especially in its biggest cities such as Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai the country lately has become vegan-friendly. In total Thailand has more than 1500 vegan-friendly cafes, restaurants, shops, and markets. Vegan food prices in Bangkok are noticeably higher than in other Thai cities.

 

What Thai Vegan Phrases You Should Know Before Visiting Thailand

In many situations, sign language is an okay solution to communicate with locals in Thailand, but to avoid unpleasant misunderstandings I recommend writing down or better printing out the names of certain ingredients that you would prefer to be excluded from your dish.

I guess the first phrase you should learn is how to say I am vegan in Thai.

In the Thai language it looks like this ฉันทานเจค่ะ and to pronounce it correctly you have to say “Chan gin jay kha” for women and “Chan gin jay krab” for men.

You could also use word Jay to specify that you don’t eat meat, seafood, animal byproducts, and other non-vegan foods.

As for vegetarians in Thailand to let others know that they are vegetarians, they should say “Chan gin mangsawerat kha” for women and “Chan gin mangsawerat kha” for men.

As meat and fish sauce are ingredients of almost all dishes in Thailand the most important Thai vegan words you should know before your trip to Thailand are these:

  • Fish sauce – น้ำปลา (nam pla)
  • Chicken – ไก่ (gai)
  • Beef – เนื้อ (nua)
  • Pork – หมู (moo)
  • Meat – เนื้อ (nuua sat)
  • Egg – ไข่ (kai)
  • Fish – ปลา (plaa)
  • Shrimp – กุ้ง (goong)

You would do just fine knowing these translations, but let’s add some additional words and phrases to make you feel more comfortable when ordering vegan food in Thailand.

Also, Thai people will appreciate that you have learned their language.

So, to ask for the availability of the vegan food you could say “Mee ahaan jay mai kha? “ if you are a woman and “Mee ahaan jay mai krap?” if you are a man.

Translation to both of these sentences is  – Do you have vegan food?

Notice that the whole sentence is the same for both women and man except the last word in it. It is because in Thailand they use gendered speech and such polite particles as kha for women and krap for men are important to learn if you don’t want to be rude when trying to speak the Thai language.

To give you another example to thank for your meal you can use ขอบคุณค่ะ (khob khun kha) if you are a woman or ขอบคุณครับ (khob khun krab) if you are a man.

If you don’t want a particular ingredient in your dish, you could say “Mai ao kha” for women or “Mai ao krap” for man. Both of these sentences translates to I don’t want. Add the name of the ingredient that you don’t want in your dish and you have done a great job ordering the vegan food in Thailand.

 

What Thai Dishes Are Vegan-friendly?

Here is the list of 9 best Thai dishes that are vegan:

  • Thai Coconut Soup
  • Vegan Pad Thai
  • Buddha Bowl
  • Green Papaya salad
  • Green Thai curry 
  • Massaman curry
  • Yellow Thai curry
  • Thai Spring Rolls
  • Thai Mango Sticky Rice

Below I have written short descriptions about some of the most popular Thai vegan recipes that you will come across when visiting Thailand.

Several of these Thai vegan foods have relatively simple recipes so you could try cooking them by yourself.

One of the activities I recommend doing in Thailand is to take a vegan cooking class.

Choose one from many options on KLOOK – I use KLOOK as a cheaper alternative to other travel activities and services booking platforms such as Airbnb.

 

Vegan Pad Thai

Pad Thai is one of the most popular Thai dishes, and it is not vegan, but with small adjustments, it can be made vegan. Vegan Pad Thai ingredients are rice noodles, peanut oil, scallions, chiles, garlic, carrots, bean sprouts and sauce that is made from rice, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and tamarind paste.

Authentic Pad Thai would include such non-vegan ingredients as fish sauce, chicken, shrimp, and eggs.

Does all Pad Thai have fish sauce?

Fish sauce in Thailand is used in almost all dishes, but the good news is that most restaurants in Thailand have at least a few dishes that are vegan and vegetarian-friendly.

Keep in mind that the further away from touristy areas you will choose to travel the more difficult it will become for you to find vegan food. Vegan resorts, vegan restaurants, and vegan shops in Thailand are easy to find in such cities as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket, but elsewhere it might be a challenge.

Another vegan phrase in Thai to remember is “Nam Pla” – it translates to fish sauce. In the Thai language, it looks like this น้ำปลา.

 

Buddha Bowl

Some refer to it either as a power bowl or a hippie bowl. It is one of the most popular vegan dishes in Thailand, and its ingredients are greens, grains, and sauce.

Thai Buddha vegan bowls are easy to put together, and there is always a room for improvisation when making one. Most common ingredients in vegan Thai bowl recipe are:

  • Rice
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Ginger
  • Peanut butter
  • Thai red curry paste
  • Oil
  • Cornstarch
  • Brown sugar
  • Carrot
  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Soy sauce
  • Water
  • Lime juice

 

Green Papaya Salad

Green papaya salad is a very light dish, and it can be a great appetizer. Ingredients of authentic Thai green papaya salad recipe are:

  • Green Papaya
  • Carrot
  • Persian cucumbers
  • Min leaves
  • Sunflower seeds

Similar to other Thai salad dressings Green Papaya salad dressing is made of rice vinegar, maple syrup, soy sauce, kosher salt, garlic, shallots, and Thai chili pepper.

Of course, not all green papaya salad recipes in Thailand are vegan-friendly. For example, green papaya salad with shrimp is a very popular dish in Thailand, but there are recipes with chicken, beef, and pork as well.

To avoid these ingredients in your salad, you should learn and write down or print out these Thai names:

  • Shrimp – กุ้ง (goong)
  • Chicken – ไก่ (gai)
  • Beef – เนื้อ (nua)
  • Pork – หมู (moo)

 

Thai Mango Sticky Rice

Unlike other vegan dishes that I have listed above Thai mango sticky rice can be found everywhere in Thailand.

Among all Thai vegan recipes, its ingredients are only rice, mango, and coconut sauce. That’s it!

For me it is the taste that I associate with Thailand the most.

 

What Are Best Vegan Restaurants In Thailand

Here is the list of 7 best vegan restaurants in Thailand:

  • Bonita Cafe and Social Club
  • Veganerie Bangkok
  • Ethos
  • May Veggie Home
  • Broccoli Revolution
  • Barefood Bangkok
  • Reflect Bangkok

As all of the above-mentioned vegan restaurants are located in Bangkok check out this list of vegan restaurants elsewhere in Thailand:

  • Amrita Garden in Chiang Mai
  • Reform Kafe in Chiang Mai
  • Pure Vegan Heaven in Phuket

Of course, I haven’t tried them all, and therefore this list includes those Thai vegan restaurants that have excellent ratings and reviews on such websites as happycow.net, tripadvisor.com, and others.

I recommend using happycow.net to find vegan and vegetarian-friendly restaurants, cafes and eateries in Bangkok and other cities in Thailand. 

Using their website or mobile App, it will allow you to search for vegan shops and markets as well.

 

Is There a Vegan Community In Thailand?

There is a Facebook group named Vegan Thailand. Visit it by clicking HERE.

 

When Is The Vegetarian Festival In Thailand?

Some refer to the vegetarian festival in Phuket, Thailand as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival.

Tourists are allowed to visit it, but they should keep in mind that it is a religious event.

There are no rules for tourists how to act around the ancient rituals happening in the festival, but paying respect to Thai culture will be appreciated by locals.

Taking pictures and videos of the events at the festival is allowed. Check the internet – it is full of terrifying images from the festival.

For many of the visitors, the highlight of the vegetarian festival has to be the man who pierces their faces and body with the broadest range of objects – swords, knives, needles, and other sharp things. Yes, the vegetarian festival in Phuket is not for the faint-hearted.

Note that for the Phuket vegetarian festival locals dress in white. Maybe its something you should consider if planning to visit it.

While Phuket remains as the central location for the festival is also celebrated in other cities in Thailand. For example in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and others.

The vegetarian festival in Thailand is usually is held in October, and it is ten days long.

 

What Is National Vegan Symbol In Thailand

So, what is Thailand vegan symbol? Thailand vegan symbol is Jay, and it means vegan food. In the Thai language, it is written like this ​เจ – it is a red color symbol on a yellow background. Thai vegan symbol correct pronunciation is the same as for the English letter J.

 

Vegan symbol Thailand

Seeing this vegan symbol at restaurants or markets and on different food packages in Thailand is an indication that these places or foods are vegan-friendly.

Prices in Jay restaurants are very cheap.

For example, vegan rice and curry will cost you only about 30 Baht (0.94 USD, 0,84 EUR, 0,71 GBP). Prices for other vegan dishes will be about the same.

 

What Does Jay Mean In Thai?

Jay in Thai means vegan food.

It is okay to use this term when ordering vegan-friendly food in Thailand, but keep in mind that there will still be a slight possibility that either fish sauce or oyster sauce will be added to your dish. Note that also eggs may be added to your food.

Therefore I recommend double-checking with the cook by asking him either he will be using fish or oyster sauce or not. Use “Mimi nam pla” which translates to no fish sauce.

When ordering vegan food, you could also use term Kin Jay which indicates towards a stricter vegan diet.

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