While being vegan in South East Asia does have certain challenges you wouldn’t find elsewhere in the western world, it’s actually easier than a lot of people think. Doing the extra research, learning a few foreign words and speaking with your hands to the locals can be an exciting, surprising and rewarding experience, but what is truly great is to stumble on a vegan menu when you are miles away from home and ravenous. Today I’d like to share with you some great discoveries I have made in the last year and a half spent traveling across this beautiful part of the world.
1. Pun Pun, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Pun Pun is a small organic farm and sustainable living center located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Their restaurant situated on the ground of the majestic Wat Suan Dok temple serves vegan versions of popular Thai dishes you aren’t likely to find elsewhere. My favourite, the nam hed song kreung, is a fermented mushroom sausage that is served with fresh lime, red onion, ginger, chili, spring onion, cilantro and cashew nuts, a party of flavors and textures, the epitome of Thai food.
2. Luk Yea Yan, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Malaysia boasts an impressive quantity of fully vegan Chinese Buddhist restaurants. This is possibly my favorite one because of their laksa, a traditional Malaysian curry noodle soup. Unlike other laksa I have previously tasted, this one has a sour component to it, no coconut milk and loads of pineapple chunks (must be the Penang spin). It is bursting with the flavorful elusive herb known here as laksa herb, Vietnamese coriander or Vietnamese mint and is mastered to perfection. No visit to Penang will be complete without a taste of it, whether you are a vegan or not.
3. Sari Organik, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Sari Organik possibly has one of the most beautiful settings I have ever seen, amidst the rice terraces of Ubud. The menu is made up of mostly organic, mostly vegetarian dishes with loads of vegan options thrown in. I had the longtong, a curry made of vegetables, tempeh, tofu and discs of rice cooked in banana leaf, the tofulafel platter and the tofu tempura salad. Everything was fresh and delicious. Food aside, it is a lovely place to be and definitely deserves a visit.
4. Veganburg, Singapore
It was clear from the moment I stepped foot in Singapore that I was not going to be the health nut I usually am – all those vegan junk food options! Veganburg’s concept is quite simple: a gourmet burger joint like so many have sprung up worldwide in recent years, with several nicely crafted burgers, seasoned fries and fancy ice teas, tastefully served in a hip interior. And, you've guessed it, every last one item on the menu is vegan. The restaurant was filled with teenagers, families and a few tourists – a very typical fast food joint crowd – all enjoying their sans meat burger combo. This concept would surely be a great success in the West. Should anyone want to pick this up from here, I'll be your customer number one!
- Address: 44 Jalan Eunos, 419502, Singapore & 12 Marina Boulevard 02-05, Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3, 018982, Singapore
- Foursquare; Facebook; website
5. The Vegetarian, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The shaded terrace is a reason alone to visit this little slice of heaven in the heart of sweltering Phnom Penh. As its name suggests, the menu at The Vegetarian is not fully vegan, but the waitresses have a good understanding of veganism and you’ll be able to pick from an extensive choice of Cambodian, Thai, Indian, Chinese and Western dishes and an amazing juice menu. Ultimate freshness, fair prices and relaxation from the hustle and bustle is what you’ll find at this cute and homey restaurant.
- Address: No. 158 Str. 19 off Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
6. Veggie Tables, Vang Vieng, Laos
Give your taste buds a break from MSG and overly salted dishes as you make your way around South East Asia’s banana trail with a stop at this quiet restaurant in the heart of picturesque Vang Vieng. Unfortunately there is no view over the beautiful mountains here, but the homey, fresh and unpretentious food more than makes up for it. Gussied-up backpacker staples such as stir fried vegetables and laarb are enhanced with intricately mixed herbs and spices, elevating the dishes one notch above all the other restaurants around. And best of all, most of it is vegan.
- Address: Main Road No. 13, on the main T junction opposite Xayo restaurant, Vang Vieng, Laos
7. Be Kind to Animals the Moon Vegetarian Restaurant, Bagan, Myanmar
A charming garden restaurant with friendly service and reasonable prices is what you’ll find at this little green oasis of a vegetarian restaurant in the magical city of Bagan, Myanmar. It’s a little on the touristy side and always filled with temple-goers, but I was so delighted to see all those vegan options in a country that was otherwise rather challenging that I didn’t care a bit. The lentil soup with ginger, tomato salad and tea leaf salad were absolutely delicious and the complimentary homemade tamarind sweets were a nice touch. Top notch americano and ginger lime tea seal the deal.
- Address: North of Ananda Temple, Old Bagan, Bagan, Myanma
8. May Veggie Home, Bangkok, Thailand
Located in Sukhumvit, one of Bangkok’s liveliest neighborhoods, May Veggie is my go to restaurant in one of the most vegan friendly cities of South East Asia. The service is fast and friendly and you will find delicious Thai specialties such as Khao Soi (a staple curry noodle soup from the North), stir friend salted “fish”, stuffed avocado salad, tofu laarb and curries. Keep room for dessert as they have the best vegan coconut-based ice cream I have ever tasted, with flavors like black sesame, mocha, durian and Thai ice tea. Heavenly.
9. Peace Café, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Peace Café has a vegetarian cooking school, yoga classes and a lovely restaurant with several vegan options, all set in a beautiful garden with giant trees and plush sofas for those seeking some shade after a sweaty day out exploring the wonders of Angkor. The menu is extensive and contains Western and Asian dishes from which we picked a delicious pomelo salad, a zingy Khmer red curry, crunchy veggie sushi and refreshing healthy juices. Another little oasis well worth a visit.
10. Milas, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia
A peaceful retreat where birds are chirping and frogs are croaking around traditional open-wall, shoe-free bamboo huts. Happy customers munch of vegetarian and vegans Indonesian staples such as tempeh, gado gado and nasi goreng as well as western dishes like burgers, pasta, salads and guacamole. Milas grows their own veggies organically and is also a not for profit organization helping street youth (the staff is thus extremely sweet if a little clueless at times). The healthy juices and organic coffees are great and the on-site shop sells souvenirs and homemade muesli and cookies, a lot of them also vegan.
- Address:Jalan Prawirotaman 4 No. 127B, Parangtritis, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
How’s that for vegan wanderlust?
Sam: Here's a Foursquare list of all these restaurants in one place!
Amélie is a hungry fun-loving vegan Canadian graphic designer and travel writer who’s ditched the 9 to 5 lifestyle in favor of something that lets her roam the world at her own will and follow her ever itchy feet. She is currently based in Malaysia, but that probably won’t last very long. Follow her adventures on her blog Mostly Amélie. You can also catch her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.