Eggs: The Creative Ingredient

How To Eat Thai Food If You'Re A Vegetarian

by Ethan Stone

If you're a vegetarian, then you know how difficult it can be to find a place to eat. Some places are obviously not vegetarian friendly, such as steak houses, but some are more difficult to figure out. There other restaurants which might look like they offer vegetarian food, but whose meals actually include meat or fish.

It's All In The Sauce

As a rule, most Thai restaurants will be o.k. for anyone who eats fish (pescatarians). However, if you or your dinner date are strict vegetarians, then Thai food is a problem. While a dish might appear to be free of meat or fish, it is not. Most Thai sauces include fish sauce or shrimp paste. You might order a meal and not even be aware that it contains fish.

For example, you might order Pad Thai and ask them to not add chicken or shrimp. That does not make it vegetarian. The sauce used to make Pad Thai contains fish sauce.

Does That Mean There's No Such Thing As Vegetarian Thai?

No. Many Thai restaurants understand that there is a market for vegetarian food. For that reason there are some Thai restaurants that have decided to capitalize on this by offering a vegetarian menu, which include fish sauce free entrees.

Even in Thailand there are places which offer vegetarian menus. This is because they cater to Buddhists who do not want any meat of fish at all. These restaurants place a yellow sign in the window that advertise that they have a menu designed for vegetarian Buddhists.

Well, I'm Not In Thailand, So What Do I Look For?

There won't be a yellow sign in the window. However, there are two types of places you can look for.

The first place is a Thai restaurant that advertises itself as vegetarian. They will have this printed on the menu, or in their advertisements. You can look in local alternative newspapers for ads. You should also look online and specifically enter vegetarian as a search term. Remember, if a restaurant does not advertise itself as vegetarian, odds are it is not.

The second place to look is in the Thai-Indian community in your area. There is a very big Indian population in Thailand. When they emigrate to Canada and the United States they bring their cuisine with them. Many of these people are practicing Hindus. This means that a restaurant will have to abide by Hindu dietary requirements, which means that there will be no meat or fish in the sauce.