If in doubt, a Bangkok food court is a good place to look for vegetarian eats. Most large shopping centres will have at least one option, even if it’s tucked away and you have to spend four trips looking because you are too stubborn to give up. Not that this has ever happened to me seventy times or anything.
This is not a comprehensive list but rather a few suggestions on where you’re likely to find vegetarian grub and a plea to explore a little before you throw your hands up and shout about there being no vegan options nearby. There are. No matter where you are in Bangkok, there is something for you to eat.
Shopping Mall Food Courts
Many shopping mall food courts have vegetarian options. Keep in mind that lunchtimes (12-2pm) are heaving, but also represent the time of day to find the freshest food. Look for the Thai or Chinese symbol for jay (vegan without garlic and onion) or the word “mangsawirat” (vegetarian). If the jay sign is visible, the food will be vegan. Otherwise, ask.
Here are four mall favourites I frequent when in town:
The fourth floor of Amarin Plaza houses The Cook, a food court full of inexpensive dining options. Purchase a card at the kiosk and use that to buy your food (anywhere that operates under a meal ticket system will refund any difference after your meal). The vegetarian stall here isn’t completely vegan, but it’s pretty easy to discern what is vegan by understanding what a large fried egg looks like. Sit against the window and if the mall doesn’t have a whole bunch of crap like dumb Christmas lights or something on the outside wall then you can pretend like you are floating over Bangkok.
The food is some of the best food court veggie cuisine I’ve had. Incidentally, the food is served at room temperature. Sometimes people complain about that, so if it’s a problem then probably avoid 95% of vegan/jay eateries in Thailand.
The sweets stalls are also predominantly vegan. Everything from mango sticky rice to tub tim grob. If you don’t know what that is, then go ask for some. If you like it, let me know. If you don’t, it’s not like I forced you or anything so lay off already. Sheesh.
MBK Center is where you supposedly go for phone and electronic needs, but in reality it’s where you go to pretend you are in a technological version of that C.S. Lewis story where four kids hallucinate in a wardrobe about becoming royalty in a kingdom where a lion and other animals speak to them in English.
After seven hours of trying to find your way to the next escalator up, you might be fortunate enough to access the food court on the 6th floor. The area is a bit dark, but I like that because I always feel like everyone is staring at me and at MBK it’s like you’re only there to eat so nobody wants to look up into dim depression except to eye the next place to buy food from.
The dessert stall is my favourite. Pick a few things that look pretty and they’ll serve it with a mound of shaved ice, sugar syrup and coconut milk. I especially love the combination of lod chong (looks like green worms) and candied cassava.
This is also a card operated food court, so pick one up the signposted kiosk.
Terminal 21, unlike other shopping centres in Bangkok, features a great big escalator that lets you skip multiple floors without walking in circles about a billion times. Hands down my favourite shopping center in BKK (because travel themes are neat), the food at the vegetarian stall on the 5th floor in the Pier 21 eating area is not completely vegan so be sure to ask if you aren’t sure. Try the dried-looking mushroom stems if you see them. Point to what you’d like and they will serve your selections with rice.
The dessert stall nearby has the best lod chong (again with the green worms) I have ever tasted. The shaved ice they use is made with coconut milk that is like a cold front met magic and they had a snowball baby.
Purchase a card from the kiosk to use at any Pier 21 eatery.
Talalask in Central World Food Hall
Talalask is unique compared to similar operations in that they serve hot food that is freshly cooked. The menu is a lot of pictures along the counter, so pick one that strikes your fancy. My current obsession with yam nam khaw tod (if you like sour/salty/spicy, this is your dish too) made my decision easy, and next time the khao pad nam (both dishes utilise faux fermented pork) is all mine.
You will be given a napkin and a scannable voucher when you walk into the food court area. Hand it over (not the napkin) when you order food. In order to exit the food court you must pass through some tills to pay. Even if you don’t buy anything, you must take the ticket and process it before leaving.
More mall food courts
Other malls I either haven’t visited or haven’t tried the food, but have on good word that they have veggie options or that they are decent:
Fashion Island Mall
Platinum Fashion Mall
Many larger supermarkets double as a sort of department store and a food shopping destination. Often there are eateries downstairs or in an out of the way corner of the store (like Talalask in the Central World supermarket).
Some TOPS supermarkets, for instance, also have a few eateries as well as a grocery section.
If you want vegetarian food to take home and cook, you’ll have luck in many of the major supermarkets. Central World’s Central Food Hall, various locations of Gourmet Market (the largest is in Siam Paragon), TOPS Market, Villa Market, Emporium Supermarket, Big C, and Central Chidlom supermarket stock vegan mock meats and convenience food to varying degrees. Amy’s brand vegetarian and vegan products are easily found (especially in Emporium, Central World, and Gourmet Market). Lemon Farm supermarkets are also a reliable source for vegetarian products. You can also buy Spa brand mock meats at any of their restaurants around the city, and Loving Huts may have small grocery sections.
Other spaces that often house vegetarian food stalls are hospital food courts. I’m not familiar with many of these, but suggest looking up options if you are staying within the vicinity of a large healthcare facility.
The Bottom Line
Bangkok is one of the easiest cities in the world for vegans to eat greedily and with abandon. Thais do not shun vegetarian food and many practice a jay vegan diet at least part of the time, which contributes to the number of veg friendly restaurants and stalls to be found. The high demand means many food courts have at least some vegan options. You will never be far from somewhere to eat, but if in doubt ask some locals if they know where to find good jay food.