Most of the Thai food Phuket is famous for is seafood, while Bangkok’s streets are lined with vendors selling what amounts to meat on sticks. It can seem like nothing on the menu of the average Thai restaurant will appeal to vegans and vegetarians. However, this delightful cuisine does have some exceptional choices for those who don’t eat meat. As vegetarianism is relatively rare in Thailand, you may have to learn how to ask for it in the local language as it might not be one of the default choices on the menu.
Pad pak ruam prik gaeng
Let’s start with the obvious – stir-fried vegetables. It’s not as simple as it sounds, particularly as this version of the dish is fried in chilli paste and kaffir lime leaves to give it a bit of extra zing. The veggies involved usually include quite a diverse selection, including various types of mushroom, carrots, baby sweetcorn and broccoli. Unfortunately, even this dish is often prepared with oyster or fish sauce for added flavour. You’ll need to remember the phrase: “mai sai nam bplaa” (‘no fish sauce’).
A favourite Thai food from Phuket to Chiang Mai, som tam is a unique approach to the concept of a salad. It’s usually made with papaya, but can include other fruits. There are different versions with different flavours, but it is often a prime example of the unique blend of flavours in Thai cuisine, being sweet, spicy and sour all at once. Dried shrimps are a favourite addition, so remember the phrase: “mai sai goong haeng” (‘no dried shrimp’).
Stir-fried morning glory is a very popular Thai dish, but is really more of a side than a dish in itself. It is an extremely healthy and really quite tasty side, usually seasoned with garlic, a bit of chilli, soybean paste and soy sauce. As with som tam, the flavour is quite a remarkable one, being salty, sour and spicy all at once, with the added crunch of the morning glory stems. You’ll often find the dish on the menu in two options, one prepared with oyster sauce and the other without.
Tao Hoo Song Kreung
Sometimes it’s the simplest of dishes which is the most flavoursome, and that’s especially true for Thai food. Phuket restaurants will occasionally have this dish of mixed tofu on their menus. It’s essentially just cubes of tofu and other protein supplements fried with basil. That’s it. It’s served on a plate of rice for a very hearty, tasty meal.
Everyone knows this classic Thai dish and how tasty it is. It comes in various forms and flavours, with prawns being a common addition in Phuket. However, it is possible to get a vegetarian version with just tofu. As the dish is always prepared fresh, you can be sure that the chef hasn’t just picked the meat out of a pre-made meal, as can be the case with fried rice.