Bangkok - How to Survive as a Vegetarian in Center Bangkok ?

 

veg1Intro - The Veg situation in Bangkok

Asian countries are not that easy for Vegetarians. There is a misconceived idea that a Buddhist environment is Vegetarian friendly, but it is a mistake: most of the Buddhist monks are not Vegetarians and Asia is less Vegetarian concious compared to the western world. An exception is Taiwan and of course India. Read my page about Vegetarianism.
If you enter a typical Thai restaurant, there will usually not be anything specified as vegetarian on the menu. You can (try to) ask for a Pad-Thai with only vegetables and egg or rice with vegetables and with luck the sauce will not be made with fish. In case, that there is something reserved for vegetarians, it will be Tofu, Tofu and more Tofu. The good stuff that vegetarians are usually eating like Quinoa, Seitan, beans and chickpeas are very rare in the Thai cuisine. Also simple salads with tomatos, lettuce, cucumber and carrots are not common in Asia (unless there are tourists around).
After having read this introduction, please don't panic : Bangkok is a big cosmopolitan city with a lot of tourists and there are also options for Vegetarians.
To find Vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok, you can look at the site of Happy Cow, it is the bible for Vegetarian restaurants for any place in the world, including Bangkok. So if you want to sit quietly in a good restaurant and you are ready to travel a little bit in order to arrive to one of them, then look at Happy Cow (I am recommending one excellent traditional Veg restaurant at the bottom of this page.)
But, for me, going to a specialized Vegetarian restaurant is not always the optimal solution because I want also :
  • To eat in the town center and not to travel to places just in order to eat (town center in Bangkok is the malls around Siam Center).
  • I usually prefer to eat rapidly and not to sit in a place with waiters.
  • I want the meal to be inexpensive (If you are eating all the time outside, like it is common in Thailand, you better eat in affordable places).
  • I still want the meal to be healthy.

The Khaosan Road - The best zone for Vegetarian Food

Before describing my eating solutions for Bangkok Center, it is important to state that the best zone for Vegetarian food in Bangkok, is the Khaosan road, the Backpacker's area (it is on the left side of Bangkok).
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You can read about it in the page the food at the Khaosan Road.
At the Khaosan you will find the excellent restaurants : May Kaidee (for Thai Veg food) and Ethos (for Western style food). The quality is very good in this two places and not expensive. There are many other Vegetarian options around the Khaosan like : Indian, Israeli and Mexican food. (The best places are not in the Khaosan road itself, but around).
You should visit the Khaosan neighborhood anyway, it is an interesting spot in Bangkok.
See the Khaosan Road Survival Guide.

General rules for finding Vegetarian food in Bangkok

Instead of Thai food, look for International cuisine restaurants, they are more likely to have Vegetarian plates. To be more specific :
  1. Indian restaurants : They are the best solution in Bangkok for vegetarian food. They are everywhere in town, in the big malls (the food courts), in the nightlife zone of Nana, in the Khaosan area, in Silom etc. The Indian restaurants always have a vegetarian section in their menu, some Indian restaurants are even pure vegetarian. Typical dishes are chickpeas in tomato sauce (many proteins), potato and peas, lentils and more. There are also the excelent pitas (Chapati, Naan...). I wish it was less spicy in the Indian restaurants, but why complain, they are a life saver for vegetarians.
  2. Israeli and other Middle Eastern restaurants : You can find Israeli restaurants in the Khaosan area. Typical vegetarian plates include Falafel , Humus, Tehina and salad.
  3. Italian : Among the pizzas and pastas, you can usually find one or two that are vegetarians. Also Salads.
  4. Mexican : The burritos and alike contain beans, rice, guacamole and salad. Unfortunately, in one Mexican fast-food chain available in Bangkok called Zambrero, the beans are made with animal sauce, I have no idea why they are doing that to the good beans. There is one chain that is good to vegetarians, they are called Sunrise Tacos.
  5. Salad bars : There are some good salad bars in center Bangkok, continue reading I'm describing it.
  6. Big Supermarkets: continue reading I'm describing it.

Vegetarian solutions around Siam Center - Bangkok Town Center

To see a Map with Siam shopping area, see the shopping page.

The Salad Bar at the Gourmet Supermarket of Siam Paragon

Siam Paragon is a huge mall. At the underground level, there is a Gourmet Supermarket with an excellent Salad Bar.
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You compose your own salad and then pay by weight. Prices are OK.
There are many vegetarian choices in this salad bar (unfortunately not 100 %) and the ingredients change a little every day. If you are lucky, you will fall on the day in which there is Quinoa salad and even pasta without any animals.
Take a drink from the supermarket (huge, huge choice) and go to pay at the cashier and then you can eat your salad at the sitting area of the food court, at the same level.
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You can also buy steamed rice from one of the stands of the food court, it goes well with the salad.
Another option from this magic supermarket, is to buy cheese :
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A good French cheese is a little bit expensive in local prices, but if your Asian trip is long enough, you will crave for cheese.
Then, buy a cereal bread in on of the specialized places near the food court.
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Don't be tempted to buy a "cheese puff" in these bread places, there is not really cheese inside, it's just a name (even if they call it "4 cheeses puff").
Take a good cereal bread instead :
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Take the cheese + the cereal bread and eat them at the sitting area of the Asian food court among the people who are eating noodles.
A supreme feeling, you will be in France for a moment :
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You can also buy almonds and nuts in this Gourmet Supermarket :
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The Food Courts in the big Malls of Bangkok

The food courts are specialized areas with many contiguous stands, selling mainly Asian food.
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For me, as Vegetarian, the 20 (or so) stands look exactly the same. There is also a sitting area which is quite busy at lunch time and during week-ends. Prices are very competitive at the food courts.
There are two types of stands that can interest us as Vegetarians :
The Indian stand:
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And the Vegetarian stand:
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At first you will not recognize the Vegetarian stand because the food looks like the meat from the other stands, but you can recognize it by the Vegetarian sign.
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I personally don't like most of the dishes served in this stand, although it is vegetarian. It is up to you to judge, if you are fan of Asian food, you may like it. Don't forget to take the integral rice, it may be the only thing you will finally eat. Try also the soups.
The Indian stand is fine, with good plates for vegetarians. The quality vary from one food court to another, it is slightly less good than a real Indian restaurant.
You can find food courts with the type of stands mentioned in :
  • MBK food court (upstairs) : Vegetarian stand
  • Siam Center food court (upstairs) : Indian stand
  • Siam Paragon food court (downstairs) : Vegetarian stand (+ Indian restaurant outside the food court, same level)
  • Central World food court (upstairs) : Vegetarian stand (+ Indian stand outside the food court)
  • Fashion mall food court (upstairs) : Vegetarian stand + Indian stand.
At Terminal 21 mall (not in Siam area):
  • Terminal 21 food court (upstairs) : Vegetarian stand.
You can ask at the Information booth in each mall for the way to the food court.
Note : You may find some Veg dishes also in the non veg stands, like for example, the Papaya Salad stand.

The Gourmet Food Court at the Central Embassy mall

It is still a food court, but a top quality one, and there is also a Vegetarian stand. The prices are low, like in a food court.
The Central Embassy mall can be reached by foot from Siam. The food court is called "Eat Thai" and it is at the underground level.
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Paul - The French Boulangerie and Restaurant

In Christmas 2015, there was a little miracle in Bangkok and a branch of Paul was inaugurated in the Central World mall.
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I have tasted most of the cakes, they are exactly like in France : The croissants, flans, pain au chocolat, tarte au framboise etc ...
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If you think that cakes are no real food, so you can take a Camambert sandwich or sit in the restaurant and choose a vegetarian crêpe (with mushrooms). veg bangkok

Sizzler Restaurant

Sizzler is an American chain, popular in Bangkok. They have a good Salad Bar and you can refill your plate as much as you want.
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There are also soups and pasta and fruits in the salad bar. The Vegetarian options are good. You can choose to take from the menu only the salad bar, the price is fine. You can also add a baked potato with butter.
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There are Sizzler restaurants in :

Veggie Burgers

There is the Subway fast food chain, they have a vegetarian sandwich called Veggie Patty and in Burger King they have also a Veggie burger. Au Bon Pain has a good Mozzarella cheese sandwich.
These chains are available in the big malls around Siam. All of them exist at Siam Paragon mall, at the underground level, beside the other restaurants.
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Vegetarian Street Food

Vegetarian food from the street stands

You will see in the streets of Bangkok many stands, they are mainly for Animal eaters. Vegetarians are left mainly with :
  • Corn
  • Fruits
  • Pad-Thai
  • Pancakes
The first two are the healthy ones.
Corn can be a nice vegetarian solution. The boiled ones are good and they come in two different colors in Thailand: yellow and very light yellow. There are not a lot of corn vendors, especially not at night time, look in front of Central World mall, both sides of the street.
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Fruits are great in Thailand and it is very cool that a vendor is cutting them for you and you can eat it while walking.
I guess that a Coconut is especially nutritive for vegetarians. If you buy a coco, after you drink the juice, ask the vendor to open it and you can eat the white part.
About the pancakes: you can choose the option of an egg instead of banana chocolate.

The Vegetarian food court at Chatuchak week-end market

If you are a tourist, you will probably visit the famous week-end market of Bangkok (you should). When you will get hungry, you may discover that the vegetarian options are not great in this huge place (maybe a Veg pad-Thai).
Luckily, there is a great place for vegetarians, probably the best in Bangkok. The place is run by a Vegetarian organization, a Thai one (OK, so there are a few Thais who are vegetarians). Some of the workers are volunteers. The prices are very low, the variety is very large and the food is tasty (at least better than the Veg stands at the big malls food courts). The Food is Thai style, of course. For vegetarian tourists, this is a good opportunity to taste some Thai dishes that we see around in Bangkok.
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At first, I thought I had arrived to the wrong place because the food looks like meat, but it is all Vegan. There are no signs in english. It closes early, at 14:00. There is also a store, from which it is possible to buy Veg products :
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How to get there : The place is hidden inside a courtyard. With the following map it should be easy (click to enlarge). It is called : Chamlong's Asoke Vegetarian Restaurant
The Map coordinates are : 13°47'57.5"N 100°32'49.3"E  (you can copy, paste it to a Google map search box).
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The Vegan restaurant May Veggie

I am going to recommend one traditional Vegan restaurant, one with waiters.
May Veggie is located at Asok, quite central Bangkok. See their website, they explain very well how to arrive from the Asok skytrain station (it is very near).
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May Veggie has a lot of variety in the menu. Most of the cuisine is Thai, but they have also several Veggie Burgers with French fries.
Prices are OK and there is a lot of space inside.
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For more Vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok, visit the Happy Cow site.
That's it. Enjoy your Vegetarian meal in Bangkok
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