A lot of the best vegan food in the West is inspired by Thai cuisine. The curries, noodles, spices, coconut-based sauces, the freshness and the apparent simplicity all make for its popularity. So, one would figure that Thailand would be vegan heaven – It is, and it isn’t. Heaven because of the choice of vegan dishes is varied and delicious (see Thai Local food tab). It isn’t because the use of fish sauce and meat stock is rampant and often considered as a flavor enhancer (not as animal products) in vegetarian-labeled dishes. It’s a bit of a minefield but the good news is that armed with the right tools, you will manage to request dishes that will fulfill your requirements (see Thai food dishes that can be easily veganized).
Useful for you to know, for example, is that there is no real term for vegan so you will instead say that you are vegetarian (คนกินมังสวิรัติ pronounced “mangsawirati”), though this is not enough. You will need to add the phrase that refers to the Buddhist tradition of not eating dairy or eggs -nor garlic and certain spices- เจ, pronounced “jay”. This symbol can also be used on snacks, restaurants or anything food related to show that it is Jay (meaning vegan):
This is the only cultural phrase that will be understood by all. It may look complicated but it would be a mistake not to try eating in a regular restaurant as long as they are receptive to your requests. However, if you are in doubt, there are hundreds of vegan restaurants in the whole of Thailand so it should not be difficult to find one for every day of your stay.
Fresh juices from exotic fruits and fresh coconut water are everywhere. If you are doing your own cooking don’t miss the vegetable and fruit markets for the widest possible variety of freshest greens and mushrooms. You can also find good food at the many soup counters there, where you can monitor visually what goes into your dish (and what you don’t want).
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