Updated: Jun 12
People are becoming more and more keen to a vegetarian or heck even vegan lifestyle. In the USA, I did both of these. I loved this lifestyle of eating fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and cooking up new recipes. In Thailand eating habits are completely different, street food is the norm. As a "farang" or foreigner this can be complicated if you don't speak Thai and it is just not common to be a vegetarian. Here I will give you some insight.
Is being a vegetarian possible?
So yes of course it is. If you remain dedicated and determined to be a vegetarian you can indeed do it. I will say though I struggled at the beginning since I had been a vegetarian for a couple years. I ate meat when I first arrived shock and fish. and SPICY. MY stomach and those other body parts... erupted and were not feeling good. When travelling as you know it can take some time to adjust and sometimes that means food sickness. Mine was a mixture of all that and not eating meat in so long. I decided when I recently arrived that I wanted to try a lot of the traditional Thai food and realized in menus that vegetarian was not available. I struggled with language and would go to a restaurant and point to a random item, which I could not read and it was a shot in the dark. This was a part of why I was not a vegetarian all of a sudden. I struggled mainly with the language and didn't know how to communicate vegetarian or no meat. They just didn't get it. I would use the translating apps and they didn't get it either, because then it would be fish. Okay. Okay. That is progress and is a better option than beef, chicken, pork.... but they still didn't understand "vegetarian".
Being a vegetarian in Thailand is impossible what do I do?
It isn't impossible, but it is difficult. You will have to be a bit more flexible than when you are in the West. Also, a personal choice of yours is you will miss out on traditional dishes. BUT you can indeed remain a vegetarian.
What can I order?
Vegetarian dishes are limited in street food vendors and on the menu's often it does not list vegetarian options.
Here are some things you can order:
fried morning glory with rice
vegetable fried rice and say no fish sauce only fried vegetable
pad thai with no meat only the tofu
mango sticky rice
coconut curry with rice ask for no meat, ask for tofu
omelette with only vegetables
papaya salad with no fish sauce or dried shrimp (its very spicy and it is essentially just chopped vegetables and nuts)
Instead of eating always at the food stalls you can hit up the big food markets and buy fresh fruit and vegetables. Make your own salads! Eat an abundance of tropical fruits such as mangoes, mangosteen, pineapples, bananas, guava, and papaya. Sure it won't be the same experience as going to the street food vendors, but you will find when searching in a big street vendor like in Bangkok most stalls it is meat dishes and they are already preparing them as they get customers so that can be a difficult task finding a veggie option.
I will say after half a year I have been flexible with eating. I cannot claim being a vegetarian anymore as I eat meat a few times a week now. When I have the option I will get vegetarian food. I have now learned in Thai how to tell them. They never understand and you have to list everything you do not want in the dish. I eat fish the most and choose this over pork, chicken, as it allows me to share with others when we are eating communally. I have set my limit though to not eat beef at all. I also do not like pork that much, but Asia loves pork so its hard.
Being a vegetarian can be daunting anywhere in the world, but Thailand has limited vegetarian dishes and when you don't know the language it can be stressful when looking for vegetarian options. I hope this helped you for if you want to travel to Thailand.