Like in many Asian countries, the best food in Thailand is not found in expensive fine dining restaurants. It’s found on the street and in small casual eateries. The trick is to find the good vegetarian stuff, since most Thai street food is meat- and seafood-heavy.
My hands down favorite vegetarian spot in Bangkok is May Kaidee, a no frills restaurant in Banglamphu (near Khao San Road). May also runs a fantastic vegetarian cooking course which I’ll feature in a separate post. But even if you’re not interested in learning to make these dishes, you should most certainly go eat them. The food is fresh, flavorful, and stuffed with all the vegetables you could possibly want. And despite recent price increases, you have to try really hard to spend more than $8 on a several course meal.
The menu features a dizzying array of salads, soups, starters, sides, curries, noodles and stir fries. By now I’ve tried many items and haven’t been disappointed by anything. How often can you say that about a restaurant? Some of my favorites include papaya salad (som tam), thick massaman curry, and fragrant coconutty black sticky rice with mango.
On this visit I deliberated long and hard, cursed myself for having eaten breakfast instead of starving first, and eventually decided to try banana flower salad, tom yam soup, and red curry.
I’m going to be thinking about this salad for a long time. Earthy strips of banana flowers were combined with tofu, gluten, tomatoes, cashews, mint, cilantro, garlic, onion, red chili, and galangal, and mixed with a sweet and tart dressing of coconut milk, a little bit of peanut sauce, and lime. Definitely up there with papaya, pomelo, and wingbean salads as one of my favorites.
Next I dug into a big bowl of tom yam, which overflowed with more than enough vegetables to keep any of you, including Anupama, happy – caulifower, broccoli, carrots, purple cabbage, yellow peppers, tomatoes, three kinds of mushroom, onions, and more – along with tofu and TVP. The broth was infused with lemongrass, chili, and lime leaves, with a touch of coconut milk. If you like a creamier broth, order tom kha instead.
At this point I was full but more food was coming. I ended up taking my red curry plus an order of mango sticky rice to go, and then waited patiently till it was time to eat leftovers. The curry was surprisingly sweet and creamy rather than spicy, but very good nonetheless, featuring the customary Kaidee explosion of vegetables. I ate it with nutty red rice, grown organically on May’s own farm.
I assume that by now, you, like me, want to be May Kaidee and run a vegetarian restaurant/cooking school/organic farm in Thailand. I also assume that it’s not likely to happen any time soon for either of us. At least there are good eats to fuel us while we daydream!
Bangkok Samsen Road Location
33 Samsen Rd., Soi 2, Bang-lam-phu, Bangkok
Bangkok Tanao Road Location
59 Tanao Road, Bang-lam-phu, Bangkok
Chiang Mai Location
46/32G Ratchawithi Rd., Sri Phum, Muang