You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Had These 6 Bangkok Vegetarian Street Foods
Not only is some of the best vegetarian food located in Bangkok, Thailand—it’s some of the best food of any kind, anywhere, period. Whether you’re a broke college student perusing the street markets for something spicy, or group travel has led you and your new besties in search of late-night noodles, the vegetarian options in Bangkok are must-have. It’s time to, as they say, send noods.
by Reid Flynn
posted July 21, 2020
Pad thai. The classic. Ubiquitous at your local Thai spot. Consider it the gateway to Bangkok street food. If you’re like me, once you’ve had a taste of Thailand like that—the crunch of the peanuts and bean sprouts, the slightly sour and sweet sauce, the satisfying slurp of the noodles, the perfectly grilled char flavor from the wok—you need more. And not just more pad thai, more Thai food of all sorts.
Luckily, we know just a place to get more Thai food. Come closer, ‘cause it’s a bit of a secret. It’s called… you’ll never guess… Thailand, and it’s spectacular. From college students backpacking Southeast Asia, to first-time visitors taking advantage of immersive group travel tours, visitors to the capital city of Bangkok’s vast open-air street food vendors will find that not only does vegetarian food abound here, but it’s often the most satisfying option.
Here are some of our favorite Bangkok vegetarian street food options that will give you a full stomach and full picture of Thailand, pleasantly numb-tongued with spice if you’re into that. And you’ll never once wonder “where’s the beef?”
Rise and shine! Maybe you’ve got a big day ahead of riding the Chao Phraya River by boat or touring some you-gotta-see-them-to-believe-them palaces. Khai jiao—essentially a Thai omelet—is the perfect way to start your day. Not all markets are open in the morning (some are specifically night markets) but you’re bound to find an all-day cart serving up these puffy, crispy eggy dishes. A great way to get some protein to start the day.
I know what you’re thinking—a big bowl of hot soup sounds great with this Bangkok humidity. Guess what buster, taste this and then get back to us on that sarcasm. Massaman curry is an ancient trade route relic, bringing flavors and spices from faraway lands like India and reincorporating them into something distinctly Thai.
Get yourself a rich aromatic bowl of broth, potatoes, tofu, and veggies; sit down on a little plastic stool on the sidewalk, people watch to your heart’s content, and slurp curry to your stomach’s content. And hey, not just Massaman curry—you can’t go wrong going heavy on the veggies with a green, red, or yellow curry as well.
You call it fried rice, they call it khao phat. While the fried rice you’re more familiar with may belong to Thailand’s Chinese neighbors to the north, this Bangkok iteration packs a punch. The main differences are the use of jasmine rice, earlier incorporation of egg which coats the rice and leaves it creamy, tomatoes, and a fried egg on top.
They’ll serve it to you with a few condiments—skip the fish sauce if you want to keep things strictly vegetarian—but definitely do squeeze the requisite lime wedge over it. If you and your new group travel buds have been out late, khao phat is the dish to soak up anything sloshing around your stomach before bed.
Mango sticky rice
You: rice is a savory side dish. Thailand: hold my wok. Rice—ubiquitous in Southeast Asia—is so much more versatile than you may think. Fry it, boil it, ground it into flour, or in the case of mango sticky rice: cook it in coconut milk and sugar, and serve with the freshest mango you’ve ever tasted.
The perfect dessert or late afternoon pick-me-up if you’re a broke college student on the go. This treat for frugal kings and queens generally runs 50-100 THB, or about $1.50-$3.00.
By now you probably have come to know that Bangkok street food is full of surprises. That things may not be what you expected—but that you should expect everything to be delicious. Take som tam, or papaya salad, for instance. You’re thinking: papaya is a sweet tropical fruit, right? Well get this: som tam uses papaya picked while green, somewhat savory, and still unripe. Mixed with garlic, chilis, peanuts, lime, and palm sugar, it creates a sweet, sour, tangy meal once again proving the ease with which eating vegetarian in Bangkok is accomplished.
Hello, old friend. Yes indeed, we’ve come full circle. It seems it’s always ourselves we find at the noodle stand. Maybe it’s your last day in Bangkok after a week of floating markets, Buddhist temples, and dizzying sights and sounds. Maybe you went out to Phuket or Chiang Mai—or both!—to get your beach on, or get into nature, respectively. Either way, make your last meal in Bangkok an old favorite: pad thai, vegetarian style, of course.
Thailand is an incredible foodie country, and the bustling street food sidewalks of Bangkok exemplify this as well as anywhere in the Kingdom. If your mouth is watering after reading this, consider a trip that takes you not just to Bangkok to fill up on veggie pad thai & more, but also to see elephants in the countryside, to swim in crystal clear water, to pay your respects to Buddhist temples, and to island hop across the Phi Phi islands. Everything planned and taken care of, you just crack open an ice-cold Singha beer and think about which food cart to hit up next.
Written by Reid Flynn
Reid is a copywriter at EF Ultimate Break. He loves cheese, playing guitar, and speaking loudly about indie rock to anyone who will listen. His favorite place in the world is Amsterdam.