Thailand can be gastronomically very challenging for vegetarians, at least that is what I thought until I visited the country. Only to find out that barring few non-veggies in the group, most of them had a torrid time adjusting to the taste and smell of non-veg food. In fact, as a vegetarian I had more fun than most of the non-veggies.
So here is how I survived in Bangkok and Pattaya as a vegetarian. Compared to countries like Vietnam, Philippines, and other South East Asian countries Thailand is relatively gentle on vegetarians providing quite a few options. So below is my take on how a vegetarian can survive in Thailand.
1.Pancakes: You will find pancakes at all places, at least in Pattaya and Bangkok, the two cities that I visited. However, they are not pancakes in the traditional sense. Yet they are yummy on the tummy and a must try. There are variants as well, in some places they have nutella, peanut butter etc. One can also choose eggs instead of fruits or eggs along with fruits.
2. Pad Thai: This is a quintessential Thai dish (a stir-fried rice noodle dish) and an absolute must if you are visiting Thailand. However, as I found out as with many other food here, there is a distinctive, strong and pungent odour. Initially, we all thought it is the smell from myriad varieties of non-veg food they have. But I could sense this smell in veg food, in street food and even in Indian restaurants. So we came to a logical conclusion that it must be the oil they use. However, they have lots of add-ons like soy sauce, red chillies etc which help to ward off the smell. If you are able to shoo away that smell, pad thai is simply a brilliant dish.
3. Fruits: Believe me, some of the non-vegetarians subsisted mainly on fruits and ready to drink stuff found in super markets such as Seven 11. Pineapple and bananas are the best, I liked mangoes while some did not like them. Tender coconut also tasted slightly different from what we get here in India. Fruits are sold by road side vendors everywhere, and should help the veggies to an extent.
4. Mushrooms: I did not find button mushrooms, but these were bigger and whiter. They grill the mushrooms and add chilli vinegar. However, with no masala it is as good as eating uncooked mushroom. I tried it just for the heck of it because I love mushrooms. However, not my idea of eating mushrooms, so stopped it with one attempt. Be also warned that they are grilled in the same grill in which they cook non-veg too. So if you are particular about this, it is not for you!
5. Coconut ice cream: I am sure many would have eaten tender coconut ice cream either from Naturals or Pabrais. So I was expecting something similar. However, what I had in Bangkok blew me off. The taste of coconut was so subtle yet enough to tell you that it is coconut ice cream and not vanilla. At 50 Baht, it seems slightly pricey for street food, but what the heck. The taste is divine and worth every penny, I mean Baht!
So if you are heading to Bangkok, do not worry about what you will eat there. Keep a little open mind, you will be amazed at the choices available!