How to Order Vegetarian Food at Any Restaurant in Thailand

I’m sometimes asked by people if it’s hard to find vegetarian food in Thailand, and my answer is always “no.” Sure, if I ate meat then everything in the market would be an option, but I never really have trouble finding veggie food. If there’s no vegetarian restaurants around—and even if you don’t see any meatless options written on the menu—that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You can order vegetarian versions of many Thai dishes just by knowing a couple phrases. In the video below, I tell you how to order vegetarian food at any restaurant in Thailand. Below the video you’ll find an overview of the vocabulary and grammar that you’ll need. (You can also click here to watch the video directly at YouTube).

Key Vocabulary:

มังสวิรัติ mang-sà-wí-rát  “vegetarian”
เจ  jee  “Chinese Buddhist vegetarian”
ไม่  mâi  “not”
ใส่  sài  “to put in”
เนื้อสัตว์  nʉ́ʉa-sàt  “meat”
ไม่ใส่เนื้อสัตว์  mâi sài nʉ́ʉa-sàt  “without meat”
เอา ao “to take”
เอา… ไม่ใส่เนื้อสัตว์  ao…mâi sài nʉ́ʉa-sàt  “I’ll take…without meat.”
เอา… มังสวิรัติ   ao…mang-sà-wí-rát  “I’ll take vegetarian…”
ผัดไทย  phàt-thai  “Pad Thai”
แกงเขียวหวาน  gɛɛng-khǐiao-wǎan  “green curry”
ผัดซีอิ๊ว  phàt-sii-íu  “fried noodles in soy sauce”
ผักบุ้งไฟแดง  phàk-bûng fai dɛɛng  “stir-fried morning glory”
ใส่ไข่ได้ไหม  sài khài dâai mái  “Is it OK to put eggs in?”
กินไข่ได้ไหม  gin khài dâai mái  “Can you eat eggs?”
ใส่ไข่ได้  sài khài dâai  “It’s OK to put eggs in.”
กินไข่ได้  gin khài dâai  “I can eat eggs”
ไม่ใส่ไข่  mâi sài khài  “without eggs”

Basic Thai sentence structure is Subject-Verb-Object. However, the subject can be omitted when it’s understood from context. So, then you can make a sentence using just Verb-Object as in:

เอา ผัดไทย  ao phàt-thai  “(I’ll) take Pad Thai.”

Adjectives and adjective phrases always follow the nouns that they describe. This is the opposite of English. For example, you can say:

ผัดไทย มังสวิรัติ  phàt-thai mang-sà-wí-rát  “vegetarian Pad Thai”

The basic pattern for ordering a vegetarian version of any dish is to plug the name of the dish into the sentence:

เอา… มังสวิรัติ   ao…mang-sà-wí-rát  “I’ll take vegetarian…”

So, in the example of Pad Thai, you’d say:

เอา ผัดไทย มังสวิรัติ  ao phàt-thai mang-sà-wí-rát  “I’ll take vegetarian Pad Thai.”

The other way to make a request for meatless food is to use a phrase that means “without meat”:

ไม่ใส่เนื้อสัตว์  mâi sài nʉ́ʉa-sàt  “without meat”

In the example using Pad Thai, you’d therefore say:

เอา ผัดไทย ไม่ใส่เนื้อสัตว์  ao phàt-thai mâi sài nʉ́ʉa-sàt  “I’ll take Pad Thai without meat.”

For any other food, just plug the name of the dish into the middle of the sentence:

เอา… ไม่ใส่เนื้อสัตว์  ao…mâi sài nʉ́ʉa-sàt  “I’ll take…without meat.”

Nuson-Vegetarian-restaurant-in-chinag-maiIf you want to find some really good and cheap vegetarian food, I also recommend that you keep an eye out for small restaurants with a yellow and red sign reading เจ. These Chinese Buddhist style vegetarian restaurants are usually open for breakfast and lunch, and you can get a plate of rice with two curries or vegetable dishes for around $1. But if you can’t find any veggie restaurants, the phrases above will work to get you meatless food just about anywhere.

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How to Order Vegetarian Food at Any Restaurant in Thailand — 5 Comments

  1. I’ve been to Thailand four times (officially), and I’ve always thought it was easy to find vegetarian food. Granted I always in areas mentioned in Lonely Planet guides, but all I the restaurants I frequented had vegetarian options.

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  4. hi

    Informative article, Ryan, though I still say that true vegetarian food is not easy, unless you follow เจ (Jae). You don’t know if the cooking oil is animal-based, the wok may have just cooked a meat dish and has not been thoroughly cleaned and there are the other additives like fish or oyster sauces, amongst others. Meat free dishes no problem; strict vegetarian or vegan dishes, not so easy.


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