A large amount of Thai cuisine is vegetarian. This is most evident during the annual Vegetarian Festival in Phuket when the streets are literally lined with stalls selling entirely meatless Thai dishes. Vegetarianism may be growing in popularity in the West, but in Thailand, it’s very common. Yellow signs and flags outside restaurants, which declare them to be a meat-free zone, are a regular sight.
Known as mungsawirat in Thai, vegetarianism is practised by most Thais from time to time, sometimes as a way to cleanse the body after a long period of feeling unwell, sometimes simply in order to improve one’s Karma. Thais of Chinese descent will often take things further, practising gin jay – something closer to veganism. Here’s all about vegetarian food in Phuket.
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- Coral & Racha Islands Full-Day Tour
- Whitewater Rafting & 4-Wheel-Drive Adventure
- Sea Kayaking at Ang Thong Marine Park
- Flying Hanuman Ziplining Experience
- Canoeing Excursion in Phang Nga Bay with Thai Buffet Lunch
- Introduction to City Tour
- John Gray's Cave Canoeing Tour in Phang Nga Bay
Vegetarian ingredients in Thai cooking
There are, of course, many, many vegetables to choose from. In general, Thai people consume more fruit and vegetables than meat. When it comes to ingredients for Thai cuisine, the variety is also huge – soy sauces, soybean paste, tofu, fresh chilli and chilli powder, garlic, lemongrass, coconut milk, mushrooms, galangal (or kha, a relative of ginger), coriander, red onions, kaffir lime, and so forth.
Many of these ingredients are not only delicious but also have medicinal properties. Here are some examples:
- Chillies are believed by many people to help normalise blood pressure and blood flow in the body. Chillies also contain significant amounts of magnesium.
- Galangal acts as a stimulant and is believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
- The juice of kaffir lime is good for promoting healthy gums and is recommended for use when brushing one’s teeth. The rind is believed to be good for the blood and is used as an ingredient in medical tonics.
- Lemongrass and galangal, are known to be beneficial for the digestive system.
- Krapao (Thai basil) is a good source of Vitamin C, iron, calcium and phosphorus. It is also believed to improve eyesight.
Some studies show that a vegetarian diet, combined with exercise, can make a person healthier than if they eat meat. A vegetarian diet may also reduce the risks of contracting conditions such as heart disease, kidney stones, lung cancer, and breast cancer.
Recommended Thai vegetarian dishes
- Pad tau-hu priew waan (sweet-and-sour fried tofu)
- Tom yam hed (sour-and-spicy mushroom soup)
- Pad Thai (Thai fried rice noodles)
- Pad pak ruam (mixed fried vegetables such as baby corn, carrot and snow peas)
- Po pia thod (fried spring rolls)
- Pad krapao tau-hu (yellow tofu fried with basil and chilli)
- Pak thod (deep-fried vegetables in batter – similar to Japanese tempura)
Where to eat Vegetarian food in Phuket
On Ranong Road in Phuket Town, not far from the fresh market, you’ll find several vegetarian restaurants such as Nong J restaurant. More vegetarian restaurants can be found elsewhere, including Jay Vegetarian on Yaowarat Rd.
They usually offer a variety of vegetarian dishes, often with well over 30 different dishes ranging from curry to deep-fried food. Prices are also very reasonable. If you’re one who still hankers after meat in your diet can find passable replicas of fish, red pork and seafood, all made from vegetables.
The 2 big shopping malls on the island, Central Festival Phuket on the edge of Phuket City and Jungceylon in Patong, also have vegetarian food outlets.
If you feel like staying in your hotel to eat, all 4- and 5-star hotel kitchens can produce vegetarian food and understand the difference between the standard Thai mixed fried vegetable dishes (which often include fish sauce or oyster sauce as ingredients) and truly vegetarian dishes. In fact, they may be able to offer more variety in vegetarian dishes than some small restaurants outside the hotel.