The Best Plant-Based Restaurants in Bangkok
Posted by Mark Philip
‘Plant-based’ eating has now become hugely popular the world over, and has steadily broadened its appeal over the last decade or so. The current trend towards more vegetable-based cuisine is not even really a trend – it is more of an accepted lifestyle choice these days.
Whether it be for ‘active’ types interested in leaning more towards sustainable health, fitness, specific nutrition, and plant-based eating (which admittedly is a revamped and more appealing term for veganism), or just people looking to take a step towards being more responsible and strict about what they eat, plant-based eating looks to be set for the long haul, as more and more people realise its benefits. And in Bangkok this message also seems to be seeping more into the mainstream.
Not being a city to be outdone in keeping up with prevalent culinary and lifestyle developments, in Bangkok there will always be those willing and innovative enough to cater to the trends and demands going on.
Admittedly, it has not always been that easy for non-meat-eating vegetarians and vegans to find adequate and suitable meals and snacks when travelling, especially in Thailand, where traditionally the idea of vegetarian meant ‘don’t put any meat in this one’/’put tofu in this one instead of meat’.
However, in many ways the more recent wave of popularity that plant-based food and nutrition is experiencing can be seen in various sectors in places like Thailand. A prime example of his is the fact that most major Thai milk manufacturing brands now have their own range of nut and other plant milk in Thai convenience stores, along with yogurts and other wares.
This has obviously made it much easier for travellers opting for plant-based lifestyles to find suitable restaurants and dishes in different countries like Thailand (where the majority of people are meat-eaters), as the industries gradually respond to the demands of consumers in sometimes the most innovative ways, in a bid to capitalise on changing customer demands.
When travelling in places like Thailand, and especially Bangkok, you may notice (if you are looking) that the plant-based theme is slowly but surely weaving its way onto the menus of more and more regular restaurants that might normally sell only meat dishes, and it is also slowly developing more of a presence in the many 7-Elevens and other such convenience stores, product by product. (Organic chia soy pudding, anyone? Almond milk yoghurt with blueberries?)
These types of products are often inspired by some of the dietary and fitness habits adopted and demonstrated by Thai celebrities and other influencers, who may then go on to have a hand in the development of their own brand or product range, or serve as the ‘face’ of a particular brand’s advertising campaigns.
Currently in Bangkok, in some of the more forward-thinking or ‘up-with-the-trends’ supermarkets – namely Villa and Tops – it is possible to find such delights as ‘plant-protein’ bars and powders, next to the whey protein fitness products (Tops even stocks the well-known vegan fitness brand Sunwarrior).
You can also find organic tofu, dried beans and lentils, organic peanut butter, chia seeds and a range of other organic seeds, and beans and nuts, aimed at the discerning health conscious and mindful shoppers that are clearly growing in their numbers. Most supermarkets are now also likely to have an organic section, or at least some produce.
There are also a handful of ‘specialist’ shops or markets in Bangkok, like Sunshine Market in Sukhumvit, that has always sold organic coffee, chocolate, and its own range of plant-based, health food dietary and fitness-related products.
The Smiling Vegetarian Buddhist Theory
There is a reason why retailers like Sunshine Market have long been ‘specialist’ shops in Bangkok, rather than ‘the norm’, as some might expect.
Many people venture to SE Asia, and particularly to Thailand, under the mistaken impression that they are heading to a land of smiling, vegetarian Buddhists.
The fact is, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
In this particular part of the world, many hold to the practice of ‘if it moves, eat it’ (and in some instances that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘kill it’ first). That goes for insects, reptiles, animal heads, feet, innards, organs, beaks (deep-fried crispy duck beaks anyone?) and pretty much all the other parts of an animal, fish, or otherwise that might be thrown out from kitchens in various other parts of the world.
So although most Thais do indeed claim to be Buddhists, and it is possible that on occasion they may actually smile as well – one only has to peruse the snacks and wares on offer from the lines of street vendors (just follow the smoke from their DIY barbecues) to see how many of them are related to meat, or some other part of an animal or fish. (Grilled chicken kidneys on a stick, anyone? Or perhaps a bag of fried insects?)
Does Plant-Based Mean ‘Clean’ in Bangkok?
The issue of ‘clean’ food has been around for a few years in Bangkok, mainly held to task by those interested in both fitness and healthy eating options, again with some of the supermarkets quickly adopting ranges of ‘clean fitness food’ etc. – but it has never really taken off fully amidst too much confusion among the Thais regarding what actually constitutes clean food.
The main problem in Thailand with real ‘clean’ food (which may be a requirement for many stricter plant-based eaters) is likely to be with the oil. In Thailand it is likely to be soy bean oil, or some other similar, cheap vegetable fat that is falsely believed to be ‘healthy’ or clean. (Recent evidence has indicated that soy bean oil is one of the worst for health.)
This means that even if you intend to ‘get by’ on your ‘plant-based eating’ travels by learning how to say ‘don’t put any meat in it’ in Thai (mai dong sai nua sat) and then asking random restaurants not to put any meat in your food, you’ll still likely be getting a ton of cheap and unhealthy oil, fish sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and who knows what else on yer veggies. Not suitable really for the plant-based food options that some travellers may be looking for.
And many now seemingly are.
Hence the purpose of this post – which is to look at a few of the best vegan restaurants in Bangkok.
What we are aiming for is a taste of the real deal. No animal products, and on the right side of healthy.
And not just the standard ‘fake meat’ (made either from soy or rice gluten) dishes that are prevalent in the vegetarian/vegan festival in Thailand in October. One of the signatures of the food on offer in many of the restaurants around this time is a yellow-themed flag with a red ‘jae’ symbol (meaning no animal products or strong flavourings have been used).
Unfortunately though, much of this food is inedible, and not even that healthy, as the aforementioned ‘healthy’ soy bean oil is likely to be the main choice for cooking with most of the vendors, along with the fake meat, textured vegetable protein that was popular in the 70s and 80s but is now is largely avoided by vegans ‘in-the-know’.
So the question is then – where to get real, authentic, healthy, plant-based food options in Bangkok? Actually, with a little digging, and a bit of planning, any non-meat-eating visitor to Bangkok may be pleasantly surprised at just what is on offer in the Thai capital, and they should easily be able to enjoy their trip unhindered by the carnivores.
Let’s take a look then at some of the best vegan and plant-based restaurants in Bangkok!
The name is a real giveaway for sure, and Veganerie is becoming something of a ‘name’ for vegan food in Bangkok. In fact, it now has three mall outlets as well as this restaurant in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit 24.
This top Bangkok vegan restaurant knocks out delicious, substantial fayre like pancakes and waffles, zucchini pasta topped with meatless balls, massaman curry, and vegan “pull-pork” burgers.
If you have a sweet tooth you won’t go hungry here with the coconut and soy-based ice cream, desserts like soy banoffee waffles and chocolate mousse pie, and healthy and colourful smoothies.
ADDRESS: 35, 2 sukhumvit Road, Khlong Tan, Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110
HOURS: 10 am-10 pm
2. Pranaa Food
Pranaa Food was started by a Bangkok girl of Indian heritage whose father had health issues. She began looking into food as not only a healthier lifestyle choice, but also as a medicine. She began researching the benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet, and after seeing her father’s health drastically improve, she decided to open Pranaa Food.
The restaurant in Huay Kwang offers dishes that are 100% vegan, sourced from only plant sources, with some consideration going into the idea of creating and maintaining a suitable and sustainable diet.
There are recommendations on the website regarding the health benefits and reasoning behind the diet, such as choosing unrefined carbohydrates rather than refined ones, with the added examples being quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat noodles, whole-wheat pasta, and other natural grains.
This is a good example of a plant-based restaurant that wants to be clear that being 100% vegan is not always a basis for eating healthy food. That’s why you won’t find anything along the lines of deep-fried or highly processed vegan snacks full of sugar & salt on the menu here.
Pranaa knows that cooking oils are bad news, and so has found other creative ways to prepare food – oven-baking, air frying, stir frying with vegetable stock, using chili pastes, and of course making food with coconut milk.
Check out some of the restaurant’s dishes HERE:
3. Rasayana Raw Cafe
Now we are talking hardcore vegan and nutritious plant-based – by going raw!
Rasayana provides a ‘fresh variety of plant foods, rich in vitamins and minerals, for those who are extremely conscious about their diet’. There you go – so The Rasayana Raw Café is ideal for plant-based eaters who are super in-check with their health and nutrition lifestyle.
In something of a unique Bangkok dining experience, a line of wholesome, raw, vegetable treats are served. Rasayana’s fresh and innovative, gourmet, plant-based recipes will hit the spot. Imagine eggplant lasagnes and Mexican taco cups without a hint of anything with a face, and you may get the idea of the vibe in this place.
TEL: +66-2662 48035
Ethos elicits a comfortable and loungey-type environment. It also serves as a veritable health food oasis amidst some of the other fare on offer in this area.
There are host of vegan and gluten-free delights on offer at Ethos such as organic rice, along with a great range of pro-biotic super foods, some of which are home -fermented.
If you are a shake or smoothie fan check out the giant shakes like the fresh Papaya Lassi. There are also home-made dessert options such as the Apple Crumble served with Coconut cream custard.
Mmm. Ethos actually offers a menu with a super range of healthful options, like potatoes and cauliflower cooked in an assortment of Indian spices, and mushroom lasagne.
Worth a look if you are not having any luck with your ‘mai sai nua sat’ attempts in the regular restaurants!
Vistro is a restaurant in Bangkok offering highly creative takes on typical vegan fare. These vegan dishes are said to be so tasty that many a carnivore considers going plant-based after eating here.
The restaurant is a two-story affair, plant-filled and reasonably-sized. The first floor is ideal for a round of healthy bites and drinks to go, while the second floor serves as the area for the creative dishes to be served.
Here you may encounter Vistro Dumplings, with Taiwanese-style gyoza sauce, and the Habibi Wrap, which comes filled with ‘chicken’, lettuce, cabbage, and bell peppers, in a soft wheat tortilla.
Grab a brownie topped with a scoop of vegan ice cream for afters if you are still not satiated from all on offer.
ADDRESS: 46/1 Sukhumvit 24 Alley, Klongton Khlong Toei, Bangkok 10110
Hours: 11 am-9 pm
6. Barefood Bangkok
Barefood Bangkok has taken the art of plant-based eating to new levels. The owners intention is to create plant-based food with a cheese slant that is delicious and non- processed, using ingredients produced locally where possible.
The owners are Taksina Nuangsri, who is Thai, and Italian chef Edoardo Bonavolta, and they decided to start an innovative ‘nut cheese’ business more than 3 years ago. The cheese, which comes in 6 flavours, is made with cashews produced in the south of Thailand.
Barefood offers vegan delights such as the ‘cheese’ platter, along with the speciality Barefood Cheeseburger, a succulent burger comprised of tempeh, zucchini, beetroot, radish, mushroom, koji (a type of fungus), and flaxseed. For mushroom fans, the house-made, whole-grain pasta with mushroom porcini sauce is an absolute must.
Could this be vegan heaven?