Despite Buddhism typically being one of the most prominent religions of Thailand, vegetarian and vegan food is actually rather hard to come by, particularly in Thailand’s capital city Bangkok.
You’ll find an abundance of skewered meats, grilled fish, processed meatballs, deep fried chicken and meaty fried… well everything, yet very little vegetarian protein alternatives. Tofu or vegetarian dishes are nowhere near as common as meat dishes in Thailand.
Thankfully, Thai people seem to love their eggs and you’ll commonly find a side serving of crispy fried eggs to accompany your meals. Or, if you’re lucky, you may sometimes come across the sweet, tamarind sauce coated and deep fried, hard boiled ‘mother in law eggs‘. Search out the right restaurants, and you’ll be able to order delicious tofu curry soups and Thai salads. Eating at some Thai street food stalls however, you may find that, as a vegetarian, you need to settle for vegetable fried rice or other unsubstantial alternatives.
How to order vegan and vegetarian food in Thai language
For a more in-depth guide on how to order Street food in Thai check out my main Thailand street food phrase guide here. Remember, women use chan and men use pom for I. To be polite, add ka or krap on the end of sentence for women and men, respectively. When ordering vegetarian alternatives in Thai language, it’s useful to know these keywords and phrases…
I am a vegan: Pom/ chan gin jey
I am a vegetarian: Pom/ chan gin mang-sao-we-rat
I don’t eat meat: Pom/ chan mai gin neua-sat
Do you have a vegetarian menu? Mee a-haan jey mai?
Can I have vegetarian… (fried rice)? Ao (khao pat) jey?
If you don’t eat fish, be careful as a lot of Thai recipes include fish sauce – even if you do tell them that you are vegetarian. To make your order extra clear you can use the Thai phrases…
Don’t put … in it: Mai sai …. (For example, Don’t put fish sauce in it: Mai sai nam bplaa)
I don’t eat …: Pom/ chan gin … mai dai (For example, I don’t eat meat: Pom gin neua-sat mai dai)
Fish sauce: Nam bplaa
Remember to add ka or krap or you might sound like a bit of an ass! Usually, a waiter or stall vendor will reply with…
Of course: Dai
No I can’t: Mai dai
Yes, we have (a vegetarian menu): Mee
No, we don’t have (a vegetarian menu): Mai mee
A vegetarian’s guide to Thailand
Okay, so it can be hard to find decent, cheap vegetarian street food in Bangkok, but you can still find some nice vegan and vegetarian restaurants around the city at not bad prices. Make sure to check out my guide on the best vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Bangkok here. Outside of Bangkok, the best place I have found for vegetarian food in Thailand is up north in Chiang mai and Pai. Many of the restaurants in Chiang mai are very vegetarian and vegan friendly with plenty of tofu substitutes and creative Western menus.
An absolute must for all vegetarians in Thailand is to visit the Thai vegetarian Festival. During this time in Thailand, 99% of all street stalls and restaurants will provide great vegetarian alternatives. There are some delicious vegetarian salads, noodle dishes and meat substitutes on offer – it’s a surprise that they don’t offer these dishes throughout the rest of the year in Thailand. You can read more about the Thai vegetarian Festival in my article here.