It’s not easy being green – in Thailand at least. The local cuisine does not cater well to non meat eaters, as even seasoning sauces are made with fish or shrimp. In addition, there are few, if any, pulses or beans in Thai cuisine, so eggs – and occasionally tofu – are the main sources of protein available. Indeed, the choice of meals in mainstream restaurants is so limited that after a two-week stay, you may never want to see an omelette or a plate of stir-fried vegetables again!
Luckily in Krabi international restaurants come to the rescue: Italian, Indian and even Mexican veggie food is easily available. Below, we round up some of the best options for vegetarians and vegans in the area, including even some Thai restaurants.
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Krabi
There are only two bona fide vegetarian restaurants in Krabi, that do not serve meat of any kind. Govinda’s, the best one, is in Ao Nang, and offers a wide ranging international menu of both vegetarian and vegan food – the vegan lasagna, made with coconut bechamel sauce is particularly flavoursome – as well as vegan cakes and pastries. The walls are decorated with life-affirming quotes and there is no doubt at all that here, animals are friends, not food.
Hong Ming is a more traditional Thai curry shop in Krabi Town that is open daytimes only. Run by Chinese-Thai buddhists, everything that is served here is ‘safe’ to eat even for vegans, including the sauces and condiments (all soy based). But it adheres to the school of thought that vegetarians actually like the taste of meat, only don’t want blood to be shed in order to eat it. Thus most of the dishes use artificially flavoured meat substitutes, some of which – like the ‘red pork’ and ‘salted fish’ – are a tiny bit too convincing. Actual vegetables are quite poorly represented – much like during the Vegetarian Festival celebrated by the Chinese-Thai community for nine days every October.
Most standard Thai noodle and rice dishes are available in Hong Ming – try the rat-naa (noodles in a thick soup) or the fried rice. There is also a range of pre-prepared curries behind the counter – select what you want and it will be served over rice.
A better option in town would be May & Mark House. This friendly cafe-restaurant has been catering to backpackers on a budget since the early 90s. It is open all day and evening and its list of vegetarian items will sound more familiar to westerners. There’s a wide selection of dishes – almost every section of the ‘round-the-world’ menu has vegetarian and some vegan options, from the Thai green curry to the spaghetti – there’s even some meatless Mexican enchiladas. As well as the beans in the Mexican food, many dishes use tofu in various forms and there’s also quite a wide selection of cheese. Sandwiches are made with their own delicious sourdough bread.
For those who would like to sample the authentic tastes of Thailand, without the meat, Ruen Mai is the perfect place. With perhaps the largest selection of fresh vegetables of any restaurant in Krabi, there are lots of dishes worth trying out. The adventurous should not miss stir-fried s’taw (‘stinky beans’) in red curry paste, or the jungle vine pak mieng stewed in fresh coconut milk. The spicy salads are also a delight – try the wing bean or lemongrass options. Remember to point out to the staff that you don’t eat meat or fish: the enlightened and educated kitchen will let you order almost anything on the vast menu as a vegetarian dish.
Ruen Mai has the reputation of being the best Thai restaurant in the area, so it is a good choice for a mixed group of veggie and omnivorous diners. The garden setting is beautiful.
Another place to try vegetarian Thai food in Ao Nang is Temple Flower. They have a small section in their menu with plant-based versions of popular dishes and will happily cater to vegans as well.
For those who don’t like Thai food, or who are running out of ideas, there are always the classics to fall back on – for those who eat dairy, at least. While few Italians are vegetarian themselves, their diverse cuisine traditionally includes many non-meat dishes. In Krabi, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to cucina italiana: vegetarian pizza ‘n’ pasta type meals, of varying quality, are widely available in all beach areas. For authentic, upmarket Italian, try Umberto’s: the porcini risotto is to die for, and there are delicious antipasti platters, salads and bruschette.
If in Krabi Town, Viva Ristorante or Uno are the Italian places with the widest choice for vegetarians, with many sandwiches, soups and salads, as well delicious pizzas. The four cheese gnocchi at Uno alone is worth the trip into town.
Another option in Ao Nang and Klong Muang is Indian food: both places have several restaurants from the sub-continent, and all have a decent Indian vegetarian (i.e. “pure veg” or vegan) section on their menu, with basics like dahl, channa masala and aloo gobi, as well as paneer dishes for those who eat dairy. If you actually hail from this area, or are at all familiar with Indian cooking, do ask for authentically spicy versions, otherwise you may end up with watered down, bland tourist curry.
Vegetarian Thai vocabulary
If you still can’t find anything suitable, it is usually possible in most Thai restaurants, or at street food stalls, to order ‘off-menu’, or ask for a dish to be made without the meat. The magic words to use in this case are ‘kin a-haan jay‘ (I am a vegetarian) or to make it absolutely clear: ‘mai kin neua sat‘ (I don’t eat meat) and ‘mai kin plaa‘ (I don’t eat fish). To ask for vegetables to be used as a replacement, point to the dish you want and say ‘tong-kan baep nee, tae sai pak yang diaw’.
It is also worth noting that though there is an abundance of fresh vegetables in the Thai diet, most dishes will be seasoned with fish or oyster sauce. Curry pastes and some soups also contain shrimp paste. If you don’t want any animal products on your plate, say ‘mai sai nam plaa / nam man hawy / ka-pi’. Soy sauce is ‘nam si-yuu’.
Here is a useful list you can copy and print out and show in case your Thai is not being understood:
I am a vegetarian: ฉันกินอาหารเจ
I don’t eat meat: ฉันไม่กินเนื้อสัตว์
I don’t eat fish: ฉันไม่กินปลา
I don’t eat eggs: ฉันไม่กินไข่ไก่
I would like this dish, but only with vegetables: ขอประเภทนี้ แต่กรุณาใส่ผักอย่างเดียว
Please don’t use fish sauce, oyster sauce or shrimp paste: กรุณาอย่าใส่น้ำปลากะปิหรือน้ำมันหอย
Please use soy sauce only: กรุณาใส่ซีอิ๊วอย่างเดียว