‘A Vegetarian in Bangkok’ is certainly happening because there are plenty of Indian restaurants and other modern cafes serving you enough vegetarian fare! But when it comes to vegetarian local food it can be a challenge and being a foodie that I am I took up the cudgels to find some vegetarian fare. With the by lanes smelling quite literally fishy with all the street food vendors simmering their stocks and broths starting early, it was quite an overwhelming a hunt.
I started very cautiously and went to a restaurant inside a Siam mall. I ordered a deep fried tofu with a hot and sour sauce with some plain rice, it wasn’t the best choice but it gave me confidence to explore more. I ended my meal with some Taro flavoured iced tea, these tea kiosks are commonplace and the tea based drinks very refreshing. In Bangkok you find a lot of alleys like our own Khau-Gallis but in a food court format with common seating and this is where the real Thai food is and I went to one. After scouring through a lot of kiosks for vegetarian food and the mode of communication being hand gestures I found a stall and I had some Glass noodles tossed with veggies ( Yum Woon Sen) and ended with a dessert Kanom Krok ( Not too sweet coconut pancakes). I realized the sign language wasn’t helping and ‘Mai Me Nam Pla’ meaning ‘no fish sauce’ came to rescue as I was missing out on a lot of a la minute prepared food. For dinner I had some omelet on rice with mushroom and vegetable soup, preceded by steamed vegetarian dumplings and a deep fried chive dumplings, it was a wonderful meal at the food court in Siam Paragon. In the following few days I had a couple of meal in the alleys and this time I could ask for a vegetarian Pad Thai and vegetables.
In the evening the streets of Siam and Sukhumvit where I was; the streets come alive with a lot of food but almost all of it non-veg but for fresh fruit vendors and juice and drink stalls, of course not to forget the famous Sticky rice and Mango dessert. So for mains certainly stick to a bigger restaurant or you can help yourself to Japanese Takoyaki balls off the street, beware they could come with non-veg fillings and a variety of baos (Chinese buns).
For breakfast I couldn’t find anything wholesome. A couple of days I had some toasted bread with butter and toppings like chocolate, strawberry, condensed milk etc with some Thai coffee, strong flavorsome and sweetened with condensed milk.
When it comes to dessert the Thai people much like South Indian use a lot of coconut milk and have a peculiar affinity to ice which can often diminish the silken coconut milk experience. We had variants Mungbean ( moongdal) / Taro and water chestnut in coconut milk. Another popular dessert would be Snow Ice akin to the Indian Gola with myriad syrups and a copious use of condensed milk.Overall being a vegetarian in Bangkok can be difficult to an extent of a five star restaurant having a limited vegetarian menu but if you have the foodie instinct, you would manage to find a local meal every single day.
P.S: Do try the local beers Chang, Leo and Singha and for the more enterprising the Sato a wine/beer like drink made from rice. The latter is not for the weak palates.