When we arrive at a new destination the first thing we do is find a good place to eat. Foursquare and TripAdvisor are our go-to guides for the munchies. Upon arriving in Chiang Mai it took us less than five minutes of searching to come to the conclusion that we were going vegetarian for the next two weeks -- more than half of the search results were vegetarian restaurants and smoothie bars!
This really put a smile on our faces. Not only was there absolutely no chance of getting sick from weird meat (like Marina did in Bangkok - stomach flu), but we could get back into our old health food routine.
When meat eaters hear the word "vegetarian" or "vegan" they always think of salad first. So, yeah we had a few salads. But I've got to say, salads just ain't the same in Thailand as they are in Europe. Basically, lettuce and the greens are no good here, but the mangoes, avocado, and beets are to die for! Not to mention this adorable salsa inside of an avocado.
Back in Prague we'd gone through a smoothie phase. We'd get up every morning and make ourselves smoothies based on recipes we'd find on Pinterest. Throw in a handful of spinach, half a cucumber, a couple of frozen raspberries, a little ice, and voila! As delicious and filling as those smoothies were, the smoothies in Chiang Mai were different. Instead of berries and spinach we found a wide variety of tropical fruits dominating the smoothie menus; dragon fruit, passion fruit, pineapple, watermelon, banana, black sesame seeds, and red beets. One smoothie later, we were hooked.
The best part of the whole going vegetarian in Chiang Mai thing was definitely the wide variety of meatless Thai food. Some places replaced the traditional meat curries with tofu, while others simply added mushrooms or potatoes. Our favorite vegetarian Thai curries were:
- Massaman curry with tofu: low spicy level yellow curry cooked with peanuts and coconut milk. Goes great with wild brown rice.
- Green curry with green cabbage: medium spicy, less thick, rich in greens. Served with a side of steamed rice.
- Kao Soi with tofu instead of chicken: a medium to high level spicy soup with flat rice noodles and fried crunchy noodles. Definitely try this when you're in Chiang Mai, as it's a Northern Thai classic.
But not all vegetarian food in Chiang Mai is Thai. As we searched for more places to eat we came across a favorite among the expats, serving a variety of Jamba Juice inspired smoothies (like banana peanut butter) and some classic American-style breakfast items. We tried the breakfast enchilada (below), which was basically scrambled eggs with mushrooms and green onion, wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla and topped with a tomato salsa. Very nice!
Being vegetarian is more than just vegetables... you can go all out on the sweet tooth. Here are some delicious banana pancakes with chocolate ice cream and peanut maple syrup, topped with cornflakes. Now tell me you need meat.
Next we have a Thai classic, Roti. Imagine a crepe, deep fried to a crispy this delight. Serve simply with Thai sweet or go the extra mile with this yummy white fluff and a chocolate syrup. Either way you'll fall in love with this one of a kind treat.
No matter what your meal plan is you're sure to enjoy these daily pick me ups. While in Thailand be sure to try out the local coffee selection. While not as common as South American coffee grounds, Thai coffee is actually quite famous. Don't miss out.
Our top 3 Veggie-friendly restaurants in Chiang Mai
- Dada Kafe / this place is very popular among the white folks in old town Chiang Mai. Good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, Dada is open from 9am-9pm. We love their mango sticky rice
- Bubbles Live / the portions here are big and rich with fresh ingredients, so be ready to eat. We really enjoyed the mango and avocado salad along with two immunity smoothies.
- Rustic & Blue / not all vegetarian, but the pancakes (above) and anything on the breakfast menu can be made meatless + the atmosphere of this place is magical. Just ask the Poplar people ;)