thailand market vegetarian

Why Vegan Chiang Mai is booming and the Buddhist heritage

 

Looking for the best restaurants? Check here

Vegan Chiang Mai is being a theme around the community more than ever, and since 2015 the number of vegan restaurants in Chiang Mai has tripled.  Best vegan cities in the world articles popping everywhere show Chiang Mai frequently on top (check Peta and Vegan Motivation for example). Together with the current world surge in vegan population (US estimated Vegans to be 20 million already) has created an inspiring vegan vibe in Chiang Mai that confirms we have made the right decision to move here. We keep meeting fellow vegan bloggers while here, like Nicole from Vegan Non-Noms or Giselle and Cody from Mindful Wanderlust, who have been writing about Veganism for a long time. This community feeling has fueled weekly meetups, veggie festivals and an animal-friendly vibe we haven’t experienced before.

Nevertheless, even in this veggie heaven, we have struggled a lot to eat while traveling and living in Thailand.  If you are vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian you might think that in most Asian countries your life would be much easier than in other parts of the world. But, our experience tells us that this is not true after all. As a starter, let us just say it was easier for us to be vegetarian in meat paradise Brazil than it has been here in the Buddhist world of Thailand.

This is a long post on this subject so if you just want the TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read) version of the best vegan restaurants in Chiang Mai, you can head directly here. Otherwise, let’s dive into plant-based nutrition in the realms of the Kingdom of Thailand.

On another note, if you want to see our tips for eating healthy on the road just check out this article.

 

History of Vegetarianism in Thailand

 

Normally, when we think about Southeast Asia, we think about Buddhism, as it is, by far, the biggest religion in the region, and looking at Thailand, Buddhism is overwhelmingly dominant – around 95% of the population is Buddhist. We associate Buddhism to vegetarianism,  and we are sure that Southeast Asia is a paradise of plant-based food, and all of this is fueled by our mental images of Asian cuisine full of vegetables and fruits and spices. Then, you travel to the region, you land in Thailand and you have a reality check: Thai people, including monks, are real meat lovers, and they make sure that most of their meals have some kind of animal protein. Beef is not very abundant, as the traditional household in rural areas has chickens and pigs so these are the main protein you will see available.

Buddhism and Vegetarianism

It is true that there is a connection between vegetarianism and Buddhism, the same way there is some kind of food fasting in most religions. Let’s not forget that during Lent, some religious traditions (like in my home country, Portugal) are to restrain from eating meat. The same goes for Buddhism where some restrictions also apply, but the interesting thing is that Buddha only forbade eating some specific animals like tiger, elephant, dog, snake and some others less common. He did not include pigs and cows, and even his last meal alive was pork, which means that one does not have to be vegetarian to be Buddhist, it is not the core of the religion, so all branches of Buddhism decide according to their beliefs. Buddhism has split into two different branches: the Mahayana and the Theravada, and, apparently, the former branch is more keen on vegetarianism than the later, and guess which one is prevalent in Thailand: Theravada Buddhism.

Buddhism has precepts, not exactly as commandments, because there is no god so no sin can be made, but they are still moral guidance, and the first one is Do Not Kill, which included all animals, not just humans. What Buddha meant was that no animal should be killed to feed us, which many would interpret it as vegetarianism as the only way to go. He also spoke about being considerate of all situations and not to fall into extremes of any kind. That’s the reason why different branches of Buddhism have different approaches to vegetarianism as a whole.

There are many views of each branch with different views about this subject, but one of them, that comes from the Chinese Mahayana, is vegetarian and organizes a 10-day Vegetarian Festival in Bangkok. Nevertheless, they eat meat all year round, so that festival can also be considered some type of Lent. The Theravada Buddhists, on the other hand, are not famous for their concerns for Vegetarianism, but that does not mean all of them aren’t, as some examples in Chiang Mai have shown and we will talk about. Confusing or not, if you hear about Buddhist cuisine it is most likely vegetarian.

Visiting the magnificent Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple
Visiting the magnificent Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple

Why become Vegetarian in Thailand

All of this because I wanted to explain where did vegetarianism came from in Thailand, and religion played and still plays the main role. For an individual who is not religious or for whom religion does not preach vegetarianism, there are 3 reasons to become vegetarian: Health, Environment and Animal Care. In my case, it was this exact order: my health improved when I first stopped eating meat; then I watched movies like Cowspiracy that made me aware of the environmental impact of our food choices; and then finally became so concerned with the animal care that turned into a vegan or strict vegetarian full time.

For many vegetarians, religion is the main driver, and for Thailand, it all started with Buddha. The Ahimsa approach to life doesn’t give you many choices but to avoid eating animals and hence the vegetarianism movement started. Nevertheless, the first commercial vegetarian restaurant in Chiang Mai opened only in 1975, Suan Dok, but it did not stand the test of time so it closed some time ago. Since then, many other restaurants opened, and just in Chiang Mai alone, there are more than 100 places to have proper vegetarian meals. Same story in Bangkok but on a smaller scale, most probably because of the type of foreigners and lifestyle that exists in Chang Mai as opposed to Bangkok. One is a vibrant metropolis, overcrowded and with no time to breath and be healthy, the other is a laidback mountain paradise that inspires anyone to have a more healthy approach to life. Hence the presence of so many foreigners with the healthy lifestyle that ends up stimulating the opening of vegetarian restaurants and shops. Even last week we visited a new one called GoodSouls that looks like a vintage gourmet dinner, and you would never guess it is the new vegan space in town.

 

Challenges to being Vegetarian in Thailand

 

Just because you are in Thailand and see vegetables and fruit everywhere, it does not mean it will be easy to be vegetarian, let alone vegan in this country. You must be aware that the majority of Thai dishes are cooked with some kind of fish sauce, and most of the traditional dishes are in fact non-vegetarian because they have pork or chicken, the main animal proteins of the country.

It is true you see vegetables and fruit everywhere, and most of the dishes have some of them, but then they are cooked with chicken broth or fish sauce and it is not easy to always be sure of what you are eating. It is a real challenge to eat at Thai restaurants and not to end up with just rice and stir-fried vegetables. One good thing for vegans is that typically the Thai food does not include dairy products, only the desserts do, with eggs and condensed milk. Vegan Mai blog has great examples of Thai vegan desserts.

 

Eating vegan desert
The pleasure of finding a vegan dessert

 

If you are staying for a while in Thailand, then the markets are all you need, and you will find them filled with fruit and vegetables, some of them you never thought they existed. Interesting that, while living in Brazil, the wild edible greens available in the markets were something that really surprised us. In Portugal, when you buy greens at the supermarket you tend to see always the same kind: lettuce, spinach, and collard greens. Here in Thailand, the wild edible greens are everywhere, every time you go to a market, you find a vegetable or a leafy green you’ve never tried before.

Another thing you need to be aware is that there are two types of Thai cuisine, the one that comes from the Northeast Isan province, and the generic Thai Food cuisine. Isan cuisine is represented by the sticky rice, mostly salads, powerful chili as a ubiquitous condiment, and fish sauce. Isan cuisine is a bigger challenge for a vegetarian than the other type of cuisine because of the extensive use of fish sauce, shrimp or animal stock. If you see stir-fried vegetables then it is not Isan but the most generic Thai food, which is normally served with rice. You need to be careful with eggs in stir-fried dishes if you are a vegan and the soups that may have meat broth. The two types of cuisines are everywhere and if it is a street stall it will only serve one type of cuisine, so pay attention to the style they have.

If you want to go deeper into this type of cuisine then Mark Wiens is the expert and he made an amazing Thai Food Guide very descriptive of the types of dishes you can have and how to order them for vegetarians.

 

Thai Kingdoms and their different cuisines and influences

 

Just like many countries in the world, Thailand was founded by merging different kingdoms, which normally means different cultures and values mixed together. Thailand is no exception, and the country is divided into 4 distinct regions:

  • Central – where the first kingdom of Thailand was created, in Sukhothai, in 1238 and where Bangkok is
  • North or Lan na – where Chiang Mai is and the second kingdom to be established as such in the 13th century
  • Northeast or Isan – South of Vientiane, Laos, and home to almost 21 million people with a great majority of Laos heritage
  • South – part of the Malayan peninsula is where most of the beach destinations are, like Phuket, and is of Muslim majority

Nonetheless, when you live in the main cities, there are two distinct types of cuisines that dominate, one considered generically as Thai Food, and the Isan style of cuisine coming from the Northeast province. It is rather easy to distinguish them as their origins are quite different.

General Thai Food is what the Western imagines about Thai cuisine, lots of stir-fried dishes, curries, noodles and a lot of white rice. You will find the famous wok and lots of vegetables around. It shouldn’t be difficult for a vegetarian to ask for dish variations but you need to be careful with eggs, which are very commonly used within stir-fried dishes, and noodle soups that use meat broth most of the time. Also, remember the fish and oyster sauces everywhere in Thailand, always double check that they are not used. Typical dishes easier for vegetarians are:

  • Pad Pad Ruam Mit – Stir Fried Mixed Vegetables (originally it has meat)
  • Pad Pak Ruam Prik Gaeng – Mixed vegetables with chili curry
  • Pad Pak Ruam Preow Wan – Sweet and sour vegetables
  • Pad Nor Mai – Stir Fried Bamboo Shoots
  • Pad Gra Pao Het – Stir-fried mushrooms with Holy Basil
  • Pad Gra Pao Tao Hoo – Tofu with Holy Basil
  • Gaen Jued Tao Hoo – Clear vegetable soup
  • Galam Bplee Pad Kai – Cabbage with Egg

Isan Food represents the super spicy dishes, strong, sour and mixed salad sauces and the famous sticky rice. You have probably eaten this food without knowing it is from a particular region in Thailand. When you see a mortar and someone pounding on vegetables then it’s an Isan food place. It will be quite a challenge to eat vegetarian in this type of restaurants because it will be full of fish sauce, seafood, and fish broths. Typical dishes easier for vegetarians are:

  • Som Tam Thai – Thai green papaya salad
  • Larb Woon Sen – Clear mung bean noodle salad
  • Gaeng Aom – Thai Herb stew
  • Soup normai – Bamboo shoot salad
  • Larb het – Mushroom larb salad
  • Jim Jum – Hot pot vegetable soup
Tempeh vegan dish with spinach ad curry
Tempeh Spinach Curry on a leaf

Jay (vegan) Food is surprisingly from China as they brought it to Thailand and even organize a 10-day festival in Bangkok in some parts of the country. If you find a Thai Chinese Jay restaurant, with the street sign looking like a 17 (check it out here), then you will most probably be able to eat vegan food. Jay food does not even include the oyster and fish sauces so prevalent in Thai cuisine. What you will probably find in this kind of restaurants:

  • Gaeng Som Say – Sweet and sour vegetable stew
  • Het Yang – Grilled mushrooms (one of our favorites)
  • Nam prik jay – Deep fried mixed vegetables (similar to tempura)
  • Sai Ooah Jay – Thai northern vegetarian sausage
  • Kuay Teow Jay – Jay noodle soup
  • Kuay Teow Lui Suan Jay – Rice noodle rolls

 

What to know in the Thai language

 

If you want to eat in Thai restaurants, and you should, then it will be very useful to know how to ask for what you want and do not want to eat. An alternative to learning how to speak is to bring printed versions of what you want to say, just bear in mind that not everyone knows how to read.

The word vegetarian in Thailand is not the same as in the western world, here it means a person who does not eat visible pieces of meat and seafood. Anything like sauces and other smaller parts of animals is acceptable with this perspective. You will need to be more specific about the rest of the restrictions. On the other hand, vegan means exactly what it should, so anyone that understands what you are saying will know everything you can’t eat. Actually, vegan in Thailand is more restrictive than normal because it also excludes some herbs and pungent vegetables like onions.

The word for vegan in Thailand is jay. If you want to say “I am vegan”, you say Gin jay. (กินเจ)

But, like I said before, you need to be careful with a lot of ingredients that can be used in food, so this is the list of all the expressions you need to use:

    • I don’t eat meat (mâi gin néua sàt)
    • I don’t eat fish (mâi gin bplaa)
    • I don’t eat seafood (mâi gin aa-haan tá-lay)
    • I don’t eat shrimp (mâi gin gûng)
    • I don’t eat eggs (mâi gin kài)
    • I don’t eat oyster sauce (mâi gin náam man hôi)
    • I don’t eat fish sauce (mâi gin nám bplaa)

It’s crazy how many “I don’t eat” you have to say, but this is the best way to be sure or, at least, almost sure you are eating a vegan meal. If you are vegetarian, you can skip some of the mâi gin. Another suggestion I give is to print out these sentences, it will help a lot until your pronunciation is good enough. For people that don’t read, especially in rural areas, then you have to trust your pronunciation is good enough.

You are only secure if you see a symbol very similar to a 17 that looks like the following image:

Another alternative you have, and we use quite a lot, is Google Translator app on your smartphone. You speak to the phone and it translates what you say in Thai, writing and voice, and it also works the other way around. It may be awkward to record what other people are saying, so do it with caution and good sense. This has saved us many times, especially when buying produce in the market that we don’t know what it is and what to do with it.

 

Chiang Mai, the world’s veggie Capital

 

Like we said earlier in the article, Chiang Mai has now more than 100 vegetarian-friendly places to eat. By vegetarian-friendly we are not referring to the 100% vegetarian and vegan, which there are also plenty, but restaurants that may serve meat but have a decent amount of specific vegetarian options for customers. If we consider that the population of the city is roughly 140 thousand, then we have an amazing ratio per capita of vegetarian-friendly restaurants.

No Footprint Nomad’s own statistical study

I decided to make a small study about this and I used Happy Cow website as a reference, probably the best database of local vegetarian listings available, and calculated a ratio of the number of plant-based options (health shops, vegetarian, and vegan restaurants) per thousand people and the result is incredible: there is roughly one option per thousand people, which is impressive, and it makes Chiang Mai a really special location for plant-based lovers. In my opinion, Chiang Mai has the Goldilocks conditions for this to happen and has attracted so many people that now it has enough critical mass to keep growing as the veggie capital of the world. One of the advantages of proper organic growth is also clear in the table below, where all the big metropolis (population wise) are not present with only Kuala Lumpur as the exception.  New York, San Francisco, London are all famous for their vegetarian movement but failed to meet the vegetarian scope their sheer population could give.  Chiang Mai is indeed the World’s capital of the healthy vegetarian movement and it keeps growing. I am very happy to be here at this moment in time.

 

top cities in the world with more vegetarian options
Top 10 cities in the world with a better ratio of vegetarian options per capita (based on Happy Cow)

 

Chiang Mai vegetarian Map

 

When we started to map all the options available in Chiang Mai one of the difficulties we had was to identify the neighborhoods of the city. Some areas have already been given commonly used names by the foreign community like Nimman or Old Town, but other areas of the city haven’t. We started looking for online for maps but we never found what we needed: a map with all the areas of the city described, so we decided to do it ourselves. We did one with all the official names of the inner city and then another one with the common names to help newcomers’ recognition. On the lists we created to share all the options (you can find them further down this post), we used the most common names to be easier to recognize.

 

official names of the main neighborhoods in center Chiang Mai
These are the official names of the main neighborhoods in center Chiang Mai. If you go further out then it will be districts, and technically out of Chiang Mai city.

 

If you want to explore and learn in more detail about all the city’s different areas and outside districts, here is the original map I created:

If you are in Chiang Mai for a while or if you did some research beforehand, there are a lot of names you’ve heard that are missing here. For that, we did a common names version and it was based on these names that we built our database you are going to see later. These names and areas are based on our experience not on anything official, so you may find it slightly different from someone else’s perspective. Because I wanted to follow the official boundaries structure you will find Nimman, the Chiang Mai University and Airport all in the same, but that’s because it is all Suthep.

Most common area names of Chiang Mai
The most common names you’ll find while living in Chiang Mai. Again this is my interpretation, nothing official

 

Our Top 5 Chiang Mai restaurants (only Vegan)

 

Every time we speak with someone interested in eating vegetarian food in Chiang Mai they ask us for our recommendations. We haven’t eaten in all the options yet but based on the ones we ate we can tell which ones are our favorites (that we go there just to get that special burger!) and why. Because it is quite difficult to define a ranking of best or worse we decided to create our Top 5 based on certain criteria. We chose the ones we think are best for:

  • Premium Vegan experience
  • Healthy Vegan food
  • Vegan food with a cause/purpose
  • Street/Shopping vegan experience
  • Cheap vegan food

These are not exclusive on their categories per se, and we did not consider vegetarian or vegetarian-friendly restaurants too, just vegan restaurants.

Premium Vegan experience

Good Souls / Reform Kafe (vegan) (part of the Green Tiger Guesthouse)

 

We place here two restaurants because they have the same owners and share most of the menu. Goodsouls is a more sophisticated/retro environment while Reform Kafe is more laidback with some jungle feeling style. Owned by a Swiss, the name Reform, is based on the Life Reform concept that emerged from the beginning of the century German/Swiss hippie movement. Nowadays in Europe, the most visible result of that movement is the Reform Houses that sell naturopathic medicines and organic food, hence the name chosen for this amazing restaurant which serves healthy food. They have, in our opinion, the best vegan hamburgers in town. Both located in the old town of Chiang Mai, the charm and friendliness of the staff make you feel you are in a special place. To be honest, we have been there many times but we always have the mushroom burger, our favorite. Nevertheless, their menu is extensive and covers a variety of styles, including Italian pasta classics. For us, a mandatory visit for any vegan or food lover. Website Location Website

 

Healthy Vegan Food

Amrita Cafe (vegan, macrobiotic)

 

 

Amrita is unique because, besides being vegan, it is influenced by the Japanese macrobiotic cuisine. We both do a lot of macrobiotic recipes and really enjoy them, so finding Amrita was like a message from the stars. Looking at the menu you feel you have been to the doctor and he told you the solution is to eat well and it will prevent all diseases. Small and cozy, they also have a health shop and a guest house to complete the package. The food is great, and we particularly enjoy the soups, but they have plenty of delicious surprises, like gluten-free vegan muffins. One important healthy characteristic is they do not use any MSG (monosodium glutamate), which is extensively used in Thailand. The restaurant is also located in the old city, on the opposite side of Reform Kafe. Website Location

Another alternative for a Healthy Vegan restaurant would be Alice as they serve raw vegan dishes. But because we haven’t been there yet, unfortunately, we do not place them on our list, but as far as we know the quality of the food is top notch. Website Location

 

Vegan Food with a cause/purpose

Free Bird Cafe (vegan, NGO)

Re-usable straws being sold at Free Bird Cafe
Re-usable straws being sold at Free Bird Cafe

 

Free Bird Cafe is the front house of an NGO called The Freedom House created in 2005, by Lisa Nesser. In their words, the  Thai Freedom House has evolved from a basic education center to a full resource center with a social enterprise that addresses the varied needs of our population of refugees from Burma and minority peoples of Thailand. All the restaurant profits are funneled to the foundation as a full social enterprise they are. On top of that, they serve delicious vegan food with a great environment. What more could we ask? Located on the North Side of the old town, they also have a thrift shop and sell some zero waste products like re-usable straws. What more could we ask? Zero Waste promoter, Social Enterprise and Vegan food, heaven on Earth basically. Mandatory visit to any good soul out there. Website  Location

 

Street/Shopping Vegan food

V Secret (vegan, food market)

V Secret Restaurant

 

Located in one of the nicest (for foreigners) street food markets in town, Ploen Ruedee Night Market, this little gem feels like an oasis surrounded by terrible food options. I’m not just talking about just meat options, I’m talking about burgers, sausages, and other fried food just for foreigners pleasing. Luckily for us mindful eaters, V Secret exists, right at the corner which is also great because the loud music is not heard in there. Please don’t feel it’s not a good idea to go to this market, I’m painting a dark image but it is indeed a nice place to visit despite all what I’ve said. The menu is quite simple and cooked with much kindness while served in banana leaves, which is a great zero waste solution. Website Location

Another amazing option, not on the street but on a Shopping Mall is the vegetarian food stall at Maya Mall. The food is delicious, very cheap and super convenient placed inside the most famous mall in town, worth to check it out if you are close to it.

 

Cheap Vegan Food

Happy Green (vegan, buffet style)

Happy Green Restaurant Vegan

 

Despite being a little out of town the visit is quite worth it, not just the place and the view is amazing, the vegan food buffet is quite a treat. We consider it cheap as it’s an all you can eat place, which is a big difference for normal Thai portions of food. But don’t go just for the quantity as the quality is good too. The owner is super friendly and you’ll see many local people eating there too. In front of the restaurant, you can see a temple and some green area which brings some tranquility to the place. Go with time to enjoy the experience. They also have a lot of raw vegetables available, and sometimes some veggie deserts too, just ask first. it’s not walking distance from town, but it’s a short and cheap ride there so go for it. Website  Location

If you are really on a budget, there is another alternative in town. We haven’t been there yet, but again the reviews are really good and you can pay less than 10 baht for a vegan meal. Just head to Chiang Mai Vegetarian Society.

 

Other Chiang Mai restaurants for Vegan experiences

Vegan experiences are not exclusively in vegan restaurants, (although in a perfect future it should be) there are many restaurants who are offering vegan options on their menus, and if we as vegans also go to those places I believe it will help them to stay on that path, and even go further down the road. Some places have impressed us for different reasons, and we would like to share them.

 

Ohkajhun (vegetarian-friendly, organic)

 

 

Going to Ohkajhun (the farm branch) feels like you are entering an urban farm, where everything is done naturally and with a purpose. And the reason for that is that it is true, it is really a farm where some of the food you are going to eat is planted there. Born from a dream shared by three friends, a Chef, a Farmer and an Engineer, Ohkajhun has now three branches in Chiang Mai where you can eat all kind of food, everything organic. Normally, we go for the DIY salad, but they now added a couple of specific vegan options which we also enjoy. Having a meal at the farm branch is a full experience, you can visit the farm and take pictures everywhere, inspired by the organic life that surrounds you. Website Location

Blue Diamond (vegetarian-friendly)

 

 

 

 

Half restaurant, half health shop that also sells organic produce, Blue Diamond is an all-in-one solution with a plethora of dishes that go from Thai, Vietnamese and some western options. Their tagline is being vegetarian, but unfortunately, they also serve some chicken. Nonetheless, the majority of their menu is vegetarian and vegan and they have one of the best Pad Thai in town. Their vegan desserts offer is also worth exploring, we love the vegan muffin. The health shop also has plenty to offer so give it a look if you go there to have a meal. Website Location

 

Food4Thought (vegetarian-friendly, aka Bay’s Cafe)

 

 

Food4thought is integrated into a guest house and shares the space with Bay’s Cafe, also famous in the community. We actually have been more times to this place for events and workshops as they are very active promoting interesting discussions. The food is really good, and their smoothies are awesome. They are located close to Maya shopping mall, a little north of Nimman road, but still walking distance. The food takes a while to be made, but it is worth to wait and the staff is super friendly, always happy to help you and answer your questions about the town. Website Location

 

The Ultimate Guide to Vegan Chiang Mai

 

I’ve decided to create a database of all the vegan options in town for multiple purposes, to help me track all my experiences while exploring the vegan life in the city, and help you to do the same. I plan to expand to all vegetarian-friendly options but I need to do it step by step. There are many databases and websites you can look for, like Happy Cow or Tripadvisor, but I like to have my database exactly how I want to use it. For example, for the map, I like to quickly see which ones are open or at least serve the meal I want (lunch or dinner, for example) and I achieve that using the layers that you can select based on those options.

As for the table, I like to use it because you can organize or quickly focus on something you need, and there is nothing faster than a real Excel approach to it. Maybe I’m a geek, but I’m happy sharing it with all of you that look for the same. This is a great challenge, not because there are many options already available, but because new ones are coming every week.

The database is pretty straightforward, you can use it directly here or just follow this link and save it to your favorites. Every time I update it, you will immediately see the changes, so no need to come back here. For our database, we use the wonderful free tool called Airtable that allows us to embed it in this post and for anyone to use it just like in Google Docs. The difference is that this is a database, not a spreadsheet, which is designed for calculations. If you are interested in this geek knowledge about when to use Excel or a database then check this article.

Besides the database, we have also a Google Maps that you can add to “Your places” in your phone app or computer and use it too.  If you open this map in your browser you can then access it on your shared maps, the same goes for your phone app. You can check official Google instructions for desktop, iPhone, and Android. Now with this map on your phone, you can be on the street looking for options, and the only thing you need to do is to open your Google Maps app.

 

If you want to find detailed information about all these places and more, Dee has created an amazing website with all of that information, called Veggie in Chiang Mai.

 

Learning how to cook Thai Vegetarian

 

If you have done some research on things to do in Thailand you will notice that cooking classes pop up all the time. They are indeed quite famous with the tourists coming to Thailand and they have a good reason for that. Learning how to cook such a delicious food is something anyone should do to bring a good amount of techniques and options to our already unlimited world of vegetarian food. We haven’t done a course yet but it is on our to-do list. We have met many people who have done them and the feedback is always positive.

Not all the schools have vegetarian classes though, as we discussed before Thai cuisine is traditionally not vegetarian, so most of the dishes that are taught have some kind of animal protein. Nevertheless, there are already many of options for vegetarian lovers, and the number keeps growing. Here are some schools we have heard about with good references and that are vegetarian:

 

Markets, Organics and Health Shops

 

Vegetarian life is not just made of restaurants, where the food is ready to eat. Vegetarian healthy life is also about health shops, and markets, and even supermarkets that sell organic produce. As Chiang Mai is the veggie-friendly place, it is also full of options where to buy everything you need. From eco-friendly detergents to locally sourced cold-pressed natural oils. I’m also doing a database of all these options and will soon share it with all of you. Remember that if you find a place that we don’t have yet on our table, tell us please so we can add and other people can also have access to it.

While we finish our table and Google Maps to share, we list some options we already use:

Important to refer the Royal Project and its merits as it is based on the work of a non-profit supported by the state and highly sponsored by the monarchy. The reason why this project is so important is that one of its goals was to eradicate the illegal opium production in the North of Thailand. It is considered one of the best initiatives made to eliminate opium dependency and also helped to support the immense hill tribes that exist in this part of the country. Royal Project produces pesticide-free food and health products that are a reference nationwide.  You can read more about it here.

One of the challenges you may have when shopping your groceries at local markets is what to buy for your vegan meals. We surely do so and try to look for vegan meals online to help us to plan. We really like to use Julia’s Vegan.io website that sends you everything ready for your email. Check them out.

What we have learned in Thailand

 

A very simple lesson: until our society changes upside down and the weird people are the ones who eat animals it will always be a challenge for us wherever we go. Even in a friendly country like Thailand, the effort one has to make to eat vegetarian food is sometimes really demeaning. Having said this, nothing in life comes without effort, so we embrace this with our sense of purpose while at the same time we integrate the famous Thai saying: Mai pen rai (everything is going to be ok).

Do your research beforehand, check the links we provide and consider doing a cooking class in Thai cuisine using the references we gave here. It will be another way of immersing yourself in the amazing world of Thai cuisine, we are absolutely in love and will integrate what we experienced here for the rest of our life.

On a final note, for everyone that enjoys the spiciness of Thai food, you have to thank us, the Portuguese, for that! The Discovery Age brought chili peppers from South America to Southeast Asia. Do you like tempura? Guess who brought it to Japan! 🙂