Is Thailand mostly vegetarian? (a beginner’s guide)

In this guide, we will answer the following question: Is Thailand mostly vegetarian? We will talk about the hey restaurants in Thailand, the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, and give you an example of vegetarian Thai specialties. 

Is Thailand mostly vegetarian?

Although we cannot say that Thailand is mostly vegetarian, we can guarantee that it is one of the ideal countries for the vegetarian and vegan community in the world. 

Thai cuisine allows vegetarian options mainly because its gastronomy is varied and uses an infinite range of different flavors and ingredients. Hence, it is not difficult to find many specialties without meat or fish. 

Also, Thailand has a wide selection of fruits and vegetables, and its culinary stars are rich in these ingredients. Vegetables are often the focus of many dishes, and vegetarian specialties are prevalent in the country. 

Vegetarianism in Thailand

Everything goes beyond the country; that’s why being a vegetarian in Thailand is excellent. It should also be added that in Thailand, there is a very high vegetarian and vegan awareness compared to other countries.

The tradition of vegetarian and vegan food came to Thailand in a significant way during the 19th century. From the hand of a flow of immigration from China, it brought with him the habit of frequently cooking culinary specialties free from animal suffering. 

This characteristic is mainly because we speak of a practicing Taoist community. Taoism includes among its ethical bases respect for nature and the animal and plant community. A thought that he shares with Buddhism, the majority in Thailand. 

For this reason, the practice of cooking vegetarian and vegan dishes was well-received two centuries ago and was subsequently respected to become common throughout the country.

Due to this influence of Chinese immigration, several vegan restaurants were born throughout the country. Traveling to Thailand and finding a vegetarian or vegan option in all your meals is not complicated. 

The hey restaurants in Thailand 

The country enjoys a large selection of indigenous restaurants named hey. These are simple and local restaurants where all the dishes served are vegan, free of any ingredient of animal origin. 

They have been around for years, and most are ancient establishments that do not attract particular attention. But the truth is that there are many scattered throughout the Thai territory. How can you identify them? 

Most of them are presented through yellow signs with red lettering at the entrance. This typeface, which includes the so-called “hey” letter, is found throughout the country. In markets, on the packaging of vegan products … Thais use it as a badge to identify any trace of veganism. It is a practice that the vegetarian or vegan tourist welcomes since it is easy to locate meat-free specialties without knowing the language.

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival 

The popularity of the vegetarian trend is so influential in the country that the world-famous Phuket Vegetarian Festival has been held there for years. It celebrates the Chinese community’s belief that abstaining from meat or animal products helps to enjoy good physical and mental health. 

The festival takes place during the ninth lunar month of the year. This 2018, for example, will be celebrated from October 8 to 17. This celebration’s origins are not exact, although the impact of Chinese immigration in the 19th century and, specifically, an episode in Phuket during this period.

Popularly, the legend has spread that a nomadic opera group contracted the malaria disease while performing in this beautiful Thai province. Because of her illness, the artists decided to stick to a strict vegetarian diet to purify her body. 

Surprisingly, the opera group overcame malaria and regained health. The people decided to start holding a festival to honor the Nine God Emperors and express their gratitude for curing the group of an ultimately fatal disease during that time. 

The festival is one of Asia’s most popular events and goes beyond a tradition with culinary pretensions. It is a mystical gesture in which religion takes on great importance and leaves surprising images of cult rituals every year, which go around the globe edition after edition.

Vegetarian Thai specialties

As we mentioned initially, the Thai diet has many fruits and vegetables, which is why most of the country’s culinary specialties have a veggie or vegan option. Keep in mind that although meat does not take as much weight in the day-to-day kitchen of Thailand, fish does. 

Above all, if we consider that most stews or sauces are usually cooked with fish sauce. Still, many are also cooked with vegetables and miso: we leave you, for example, the recipe for delicious broccoli, coconut, and ginger soup. 

A perfect example of the possibility of preparing a traditional Thai dish at home: vegan and straightforward, we insist that the options of eating Thai and vegetarian or vegan are endless. 

Other FAQs about Thai Food which you may be interested in.

Is Thai food high in sugar?

Final thoughts

It is effortless to be vegetarian or vegan in Thailand. Most typical dishes In Thailand, such as curry, are cooked with vegetable milk. The curry base does not usually have animal products, and, in any case, pork, chicken, or fish are added later. 

Still, it is famous for these ingredients to be substituted for tofu or vegetables. This pattern is repeated in another of the country’s great specialties: noodles. In dishes such as Pad Thai, rice pasta is usually accompanied by vegetables, and adding meat is, again, an option.

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