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  You are here: ZingOut > Food > Eating Out

Meatless in Bangkok

By : Amit Gilboa

Three languages, one message: good food
Three languages, one message: good food  
Bangkok is a city of food. There is hardly a street that doesn’t have a vendor selling something but what’s in that food? For the adventurous eaters it might be eat first and ask questions later but, for those who don’t like to eat meat or animal products, grabbing a quick snack on the run can be a challenge.

Fortunately, Bangkok offers numerous meatless options amidst this riot of carnivorism. From street stalls to nice sit-down restaurants, Bangkok can please the strictest of vegetarians. Most veggie outlets fall into one of four cuisines: Thai, Chinese, Indian and Western. These classifications also serve as a good way to organise a tour of vegetarian eating around Bangkok.

Plenty of delicious food at Aroy
Plenty of delicious food at Aroy  
Despite Thai cuisine's lack of a long vegetarian history, meatless Thai restaurants continue to sprout-up around the city. While most Thai veg outlets are street or food court stalls, one notable exception is Khun Churn, just off Sathorn Soi 10. This gem serves delectable Thai and Issan dishes (with some Chinese as well) in a lovely outdoor garden setting. At 30-50 Baht (US$0.75-1.25) per dish, the food is inexpensive by any measure. In fact, for this quality and ambience, it's a steal.

Aroy (Thai for delicious) Restaurant is as simple and tasty as its name. Just south of Democracy Monument, the place gets a mix of Thais and backpackers attracted by the buffet style food at 20-30 Baht (US$0.50-0.75) per dish. No menu or decor to speak of, just good food.

Little Veggie (Je Noi) offers a big selection
Little Veggie (Je Noi) offers a big selection  
More an awning covered street stall than a restaurant, May Kai Dee on Tanao, just south of Khao San Road, makes up in culinary skill and friendliness what it lacks in brick and mortar. Belying the simple surroundings, the dishes are quite complex, including ginger fried tofu, curry tofu in peanut sauce and many others. All are in the 30-50 Baht range.

If 50 Baht seems too pricey, the many veg stalls gracing the city's food courts offer a cheaper alternative. The ultimate value in vegetarian dining is the meatless food court near Chatuchak market, where a series of stalls sell vegetarian goodies at absurdly low prices. Most dishes cost 10-12 Baht (US$0.25 -0.30), the ‘expensive’ ones are a whopping 15 Baht (US$0.35). The food court is popularly known as "Chamlong's Restaurant", named after the former Governor of Bangkok. K. Chamlong is still a prominent member of the Asok Buddhist sect, the organisation that oversees the ‘restaurant’s’ operations. In addition to the food, there is also an open air supermarket selling health food and herbal shampoos.

Among mall food courts, the veggie stall at Robinson’s Ratchadapisek location is, hands down, the largest. They offer a huge buffet selection and will make food to order, all at food court prices (25-35 Baht). While many veg outlets close as early as 7:00pm, this stall serves the late dining crowd until around 10:30pm.

Robinson Ratchadapisek: the largest of the veggie stalls in a mall food court
Robinson Ratchadapisek: the largest of the veggie stalls in a mall food court  
Two of my favourite vegetarian food court stalls are at Fashion Island Mall, on Ram Indra, and United Centre on Silom. The latter has more complex and flavourful food than most while Fashion Island's "Seven-V" stall (a branch of the Seven-V Vegetarian supermarket in the mall's basement) boasts a display case full of meatless pork, fishballs and other street meat staples. Also good are the veg stalls at Mah Boon Krong and Central Chidlom food courts, while those at Central Ladprao, Siriraj Hospital, Worachak Hospital and the food court at The Mall Bangkapi have acceptable, if less inspiring, veggie stalls.

Cheap Thai vegetarian food is not limited to food courts. A number of outdoor venues offer great eats in, shall we say, casual settings. A wonderful find is the no-name veg stall tucked away in a courtyard at the Agriculture Ministry's Co-operative Promotion Department in Thewet. The tables are crowded with ministry workers enjoying the buffet dishes and delicious Chinese noodles for 10-20 Baht per dish. For the more exciting (i.e. crowded) ambience of a market, head to the soi behind ATM Department Store in Pahurat. This busy market soi, named Soi Lang ATM ("Soi Behind ATM"), boasts two nearby veggie stalls; Supan and Je Noi (Little Veggie). Both are friendly, good and inexpensive but Je Noi offers a wider choice of dishes and seating. Another crowded market area, Charoen Krung Soi 16, has several veg ‘supermarket stalls’ offering a wide variety of vegetarian dry goods and meat substitutes. One shop, Jeung Jib Hua, sells many veggie snacks including a nice radish cake. Another, Je 4, offers a number of ready made curries for eating in or take away at only 30 Baht per serving.

The sign outside & the impressive menu inside both reflect the mix of Thai & Chinese at Suki Yu Jing
The sign outside & the impressive menu inside both reflect the mix of Thai & Chinese at Suki Yu Jing  
Surprisingly, one of the best Thai vegetarian food outlets is the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital on Phitsanulok. This all-veg, air-conditioned and comfortable cafeteria serves both buffet style and made to order food at 12-20 Baht per dish. The food is consistently good, if not fantastic, and those wary of dining in a hospital should note that the cafeteria (and attached health food supermarket) are in an entirely separate wing from the main hospital.

While they also serve Thai food, Bangkok's many Chinese vegetarian restaurants specialise in the great Chinese tradition of ‘mock meat’. Three such eateries are on Rama IV Road between Hualamphong train station and Lumpini park. Of these, Suki Yu Jing (formerly You Sue) is the best, with its bright interior and impressive menu. The food options range from 20-25 Baht dishes, displayed in a street stall case at the shop’s front, to a bountiful menu of Chinese and Thai dishes for 50 and 80 Baht each, depending on serving size. Mock meat dishes abound but my favourite is the tofu stew served inside a coconut. The restaurant also sells veggie dry goods.


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