A vegetarian’s guide to Bangkok
Forget sad, soggy tofu burgers. At these places, the meatless options are never dull
Southeast Asia’s City of Angels is a well-established foodie paradise, with offerings ranging from simple streetside meals to haute restaurants run by Michelin-starred chefs. Luckily, the wealth of enticing dining options doesn’t exclude those who abstain from meat; in fact, these green meals are often tasty enough to lure carnivores:
A green salad with radishes at Opposite Mess Hall restaurant. Photo: Christopher Wise
Worth the splurge; Indian food as you’ve never seen it before
Chef Gaggan Anand’s genre-bending Indian molecular-gastronomy has been dazzling critics since day one. Although there’s plenty of smoke and mirrors at Gaggan (literally), beneath all the liquid nitrogen and truffle foam lies technically grounded, utterly joyful cooking that far exceeds the hype.
The dish: A vegetarian tasting menu, with standouts such as the signature spherified raita, shows off the kitchen’s playfulness and finesse.
Worth the splurge; international flavours with a dash of sophistication
The chefs may have changed since it opened, but the Mediterranean-inflected cuisine in this warm, renovated 1950s house has remained consistently top-notch. With an excellent selection of wines and a relaxed, refined atmosphere, Quince is perfect for a special occasion.
The dish: The menu keeps changing, but keep an eye out for the slow-cooked beets topped with blueberries, pistachios, feta and rocket.
Worth the splurge; local dining at its finest
Chef duo Duangporn “Bo” Songvisava and Dylan “Lan” Jones opened Bo.lan with the aim of serving the kind of Thai food they liked to eat. No compromises were to be made, no spices toned down and only the best organic produce would be used.
The dish: The Bo.lan Botanical is a vegetarian tasting menu with dishes such as stir-fried mushrooms with palm hearts and holy basil.
ERAWAN TEA ROOM
Worth the splurge; high tea, Thai-style
This elegant hideaway, which has long been a favourite lunch spot, offers a wide selection of Thai dishes. Teak furnishings and an intimate atmosphere give the Erawan Tea Room the graceful air of a teahouse of yesteryear.
The dish: The stir-fried tofu with cashew nuts successfully approximates the richness of the traditional gai pad mamuang—Thai cashew chicken.
Casual dining; a green escape in the heart of the city
Set in an old villa in the garden of a leafy boutique hotel that’s away from the noise of Sukhumvit Road, Na Aroon feels worlds apart from the rest of Bangkok. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy the thoughtfully presented Thai and Western cuisine.
The dish: Enriched with ground peanuts and fragrant spices, the traditional mussaman curry gets a meatless makeover here.
Casual dining; decadent brunches with a Nordic flair
Come Sunday morning, Bangkok’s swish set can be spotted sipping flat whites at this café by the Swedish team behind some of the city’s top tables. It’s easy to see why—with its airy, blonde-wood interiors, top-notch fare, which includes eggs, salads and waffles, and single-origin brews, Rocket Coffeebar is one of the best brunch spots in town.
The dish: The silky tofu, which comes smothered in roasted eggplant, cherry tomatoes and a bright lemongrass-chilli dressing.
OPPOSITE MESS HALL
Casual dining; where the cool kids are
After a series of sold-out pop-up events, chef Jess Barnes opened this perpetually packed space that serves Asian and European fare. You’ll often see the man himself behind the counter at Opposite Mess Hall, whipping up small plates that the city’s hipsters can’t get enough of.
The dish: The menu rotates constantly, but if you spy a salad of roasted carrots sprinkled with feta, hazelnuts and poppy seeds, order it immediately—it will change your whole perception of this humble root.
SOUL FOOD MAHANAKORN
Comfort cuisine; home-style Thai with heart
For a long time, Thai restaurants in Bangkok fell into two slots: pricey tourist traps or no-frills street food. But that was before Jarrett Wrisley, a former contributor to The Atlantic, opened this gem in a converted shophouse. The authentic menu at Soul Food Mahanakorn, elevated by high-quality ingredients, fills the void.
The dish: With apple eggplant, tofu and a fiery homemade spice paste, the vegetarian red curry is as savoury as its meaty counterparts.
Comfort cuisine; wholesome food, done right
True to its name, there’s nothing fussy at this organic grocer and café, whose offerings include produce-fuelled salads and soups, in a stylishly minimalist space. The soft, natural lighting and photogenic presentations make this space feel like the inside of an Instagram account.
The dish: The Simple salad, with plenty of avocado and baby greens, hits the spot for a light lunch, and the heartier quinoa variation is equally delicious. (235/5 Sukhumvit Soi 31; +66-2-662-2510)
Comfort cuisine; from Italy with love
Appia, Paolo Vitaletti’s trattoria, serves flawless Italian, but it’s a bit lacking in the vegetarian department. So when the chef launched this Neapolitan-style pizzeria, Peppina quickly became a foodie darling. His pizzaiolo spent five years training in dough-making, and the mammoth oven comes straight from the mother country.
The dish: With its blissfully blistered crust topped with pumpkin, walnuts and silky Taleggio, the Zucca is the perfect pie.
BANANA FAMILY PARK
On a budget; authentic street food without the meat
Street food is an integral part of Bangkok life and not to be missed. Hop on a skytrain up to trendy Ari for this daily market, which offers fresh, vegetarian-friendly adaptations of local staples. Make sure to arrive early, because many vendors sell out before 2pm.
The dish: The brightly seasoned laab, made with tofu, lime and liberal doses of mint, goes with everything. (Baan Ari 17, Ari Soi 1)
On a budget; greens with a side of peace and love
Don your flip-flops and head to the backpacker haven surrounding Khao San Road. Although these streets aren’t known for their cuisine, Ethos is a tasty exception that has been serving mostly organic Western and Thai staples for years. With its colourful lanterns and floor cushions, the place exudes a laid-back, hippie vibe that’s just right for a long, lazy Sunday afternoon.
The dish: This place serves the only respectable veggie burger around, complete with an in-house baked wholewheat bun.