The end of my trip brought me to nearly 3 months touring through Southeast Asia. At home Asian food is always a go to for good vegan options. Rice, stir-fried vegetables, and tofu always make for an awesome easy meal. However, in Southeast Asia, it’s not always so easy. The language barriers can be challenging and restaurants tend to use animal products in everything – mainly fish sauce. All that said, my journey brought me to a few beautiful places where vegan food is easy to find.
I spent 7 weeks in Thailand, 4 of these I was in Surin doing volunteer work where I was catered for. The other three weeks I toured Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Krabi.
Being a big city, Bangkok is inevitable to have options. The street food isn’t necessarily trustworthy unless it’s fruit. Although, in the train station I found some amazing fried pumpkin sold by a small vendor. If you’re looking for good soup and salad, head to Dressed in the food court of the Paragon Siam shopping mall. They do a great vegan spiced carrot soup and I went back for it 3 times while there!
Chiang Mai is the place to go for vegans traveling to Thailand. It is a very touristed city with lots of fun things to do but still holds great culture and a small town feel in the city center. Within the small streets of the city center you can find many restaurants offering vegan options. But if you’re looking for something different and more mainstream, check out The Salad Concept. This restaurant offers many fresh ingredients and vegan options from tofu salads to veggie quinoa wraps.
Though touristy, Krabi wasn’t overflowing with options. However, I was able to get a few places to cater using my handy sign. In any event, I survived just fine, and you can too so go see those beautiful beaches!
Malaysia included some time in the George Town, Penang, Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumpur, and Malaka. I didn’t spend a lot of time in any one place in Malaysia but as English is widely spoken, it’s easy to relay your dietary needs. Generally speaking your best bet in Malaysia is to find an Indian restaurant. Indian food offers a wide range of vegan options and they’re in abundance in Malaysia.
The Cameron Highlands is a beautiful place to visit with vast tea plantations and cooler weather. The scenery is very green and lush. While you’re there check out the Cameron Curry House. It is a Mediterranean restaurant where you can find decent falafel and hummus.
Kuala Lumpur is the capitol of Malaysia, thus boasting lots of food options. If you’re looking for a cheap easy meal, check out the KLCC shopping mall food court. There’s a vegetarian restaurant with many options, most of which are vegan. You can get a full meal for about $4!
Indonesia is a very diverse country. Cultures and food change from island to island. I did an overland tour across Java and then onto Bali for a few days, ending my 13 month travel journey. Bali, being very touristed, offers many options with little trouble finding something to plant-based to eat.
Throughout Java you can find really great tempeh, this was so refreshing because it’s one of my favorite protein sources back home. The best city to visit in Java is Yogyakarta. Yogyakarta reminded me Chiang Mai, there is lots to do and lots of great food options including Il Tempo del Gelato which has some delicious dairy free sorbet! But one of the best things I had there was breakfast at ViaVia. After eating mainly dry toast for weeks on end in the morning, it was refreshing to have some hearty oatmeal and a big bowl of fruit. I fully recommend visiting this city if in Java.
I didn’t spend much time in Cambodia, but if you head to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat, then you must visit Banlle Vegetarian Restaurant. This is a nice quiet restaurant with a lot of outdoor seating and the best vegetable rolls I’ve ever had. The whole menu is vegetarian with many vegan options including vegan eggplant tempura and vegetable curry.
All in all Southeast Asia is do-able for vegans. Fish sauce is the biggest concern, but just be patient about requesting your needs.