Visiting Thailand: Vegetarian food guide for Indians

So… I visited Thailand in the second half of December. And before I get down to sharing my traveling experience, I thought there is something else I must write about – how to survive a trip to the country as a vegetarian from India, because one thing that really struck me about the place was the lack of vegetarian options.

Vegetarian in Thailand? Uh oh…

If you happen to be a vegetarian who finds yourself in Thailand, I have this to say to you – it’s not going to be easy, especially if you don’t have a sweet tooth. There will be plenty of desserts and bakery items to try because if there’s one thing the Thai know how to do well, it’s sweetmeats. And oh, the fruits. More on this later.

Cookie boxes at a Thai departmental store

First things first – immigration is a pain and make sure you have some snacks on you to last while you navigate through the serpentine queues at the Bangkok airport. Soon after immigration, I was surprised to see lots of snacks and dried fruits at the stores – A good idea is to stock up on these. 

Dried cranberries picked up at Don Mueang Airport

In Phuket, we stayed at Ramada by Wyndham in Deevana Patong. The mini bar in the room had a few packets of chips, peanuts, chocolates, and soft drinks – which, as it turns out, came in very handy to us.

The breakfast buffet had very few options in veg – toast, fruits, and sticky rice + Thai curry. The little spice-loving Indian inside me rejected the Thai curry at once – it was too bland for my palate. The fruits were fine, and the toast was, well, like toast. None of the soups or other breakfast items were available in vegetarian.
However, if you eat eggs, you have some more options – omelets, French toast, and pancakes. And of course, the usual range of croissants and cakes.
But if you happen to be craving for Indian food, there is barely anything on the hotel’s menu. Most of the restaurants in the city have only 1-2 veg dishes and no one serves vegetarian Phad Thai, a dish I love. If, like me, you are not too big a fan of Thai curry, prepare to be disappointed.

And God help you if you ask room service to prepare any veg dish for you – they just don’t know how to do it – not to mention the language barrier and all.
What then do you do? Apart from stuffing your face with desserts and fruits? Well, you scour the city for some restaurants that will satisfy your cravings.

Italian? Er no…

So that’s what we did. We first looked at some Italian places. And while I love Italian cuisine, I was disappointed in it throughout Thailand –
the quantity is way too less, the pricing way too high, and the flavors too bland.

Penne in basil & pesto

I was especially surprised at the limited options at Da Maurizio – an overpriced overhyped restaurant highly recommended on the internet. For 700 baht (INR 1600 approx), it served us 4 pieces of ravioli (yes, 4). 

Indian food, finally!

Left with no choice, we ended up looking for Indian restaurants – that’s when we found this gem of a place called Delhi Darbar. Located in Patong not far off from the beach, the place is amazing. If you are in the city and craving for some Indian food, this is the place to go! We also tried a small place called Indian Flames right on Patong beach – the food is just about okay here. 

Apart from Indian restaurants like these, there is little else to satisfy your one’s hunger pangs. Fast food chains like McDonald’s only have fries on their menu for vegetarians.

Street food, oh yeah!

Again, if you eat eggs, you have better options – there are food stalls selling crepes and ice cream rolls throughout Patong beach. The options are plentiful, the taste delicious. And the biggest savior, the fruit stalls peppering the entire city – we absolutely loved the guavas and the Rose apple. From passion fruit to dragon fruit to mangoes (yes, in winter too), the options are plentiful. One could also try the sticky rice and mango combination (I did not like it too much) – surprisingly, I did not see too many stalls serving this.

In Krabi, we had better luck. On our very first day in Ao Nang, we found an Indian place called Moti Mahal – the veg sandwich here is a must try! But the best find of all? It is this harmless looking place tucked on the second floor near the beach. Called Govinda’s, it is a pure-veg restaurant run by the Iskcon Foundation. This was by far the best meal we had during our entire trip. Everything is yum, the menu is extensive, and the ambiance is to-die-for. It made me want to rent out a place and open my own little cafe. 

While you in Krabi, it is imperative that you try out the very famous coconut ice cream, available at stalls all along the market area. You get an option of three toppings – I chose mango, litchi, and pineapples. If you like coconut, you will love it – the flavor is unforgettable. 

Thai coconut icecream

We next went to Phi Phi – the one part of Thailand we really struggled to get veg food in. We walked from restaurant to restaurant looking for anything apart from fries. The internet will mislead you into looking for a restaurant called Samosa Express which did not serve anything. And after a lot of struggle, we ended up at a place called Pirates House, which promised Indian food. It was here that I finally laid my hands on vegetarian Phad Thai! It had eggs and plenty of peanuts. The taste was just about okay. The Indian food? It was baaaaad. So pancakes and fruits it was!

Veg Phad Thai, Koh Phi Phi Don

In Bangkok, we again had to resort to fruits at the weekend Chatuchak market, as also the coconut ice-cream. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Bangkok, but I assume it would have more options, being a much larger city.

The departure terminal of the Don Mueang Airport was another story altogether. Apart from Subway (which was out of Veggie Delite – the only veg item on their menu), I was unable to find any veg food at all. Zilch. The only place that offered something in vegetarian was a place called Noodle Express on the lower level, which served me this bland watery concoction they called Noodle soup. That I hated it would be an understatement. 

It is safe to say that if you are Indian vegetarian traveling across Thailand, you come prepared. Carry some food with you – instant noodles, snacks etc, buy lots of fruits available across the country, and don’t expect too much in terms of options.

Hope this helps and that I was able to add some value to your upcoming trip to Thailand! Bon voyage!

P.S. All photos in the post are taken by me and are subject to copyright.

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