Monday, April 5, 2010

May Kaidee

Many people have asked me about my experience eating vegetarian (well, vegan, as I tend to eat in the realm of Asian food) in Thailand. Honestly, I was nervous. I knew that there are plenty of Thai dishes without "meat," but that most of these still contain the ubiquitous fish sauce or shrimp paste. I had even (sort of sheepishly) packed myself some protein bars from home in case I found myself on a diet of rice.

What I discovered was mostly as anticipated, but with a huge saving grace: much of the food we ate was prepared fresh, either in a small restaurant kitchen or street side, with a pretty standard selection of sauces (light and dark soy sauce, vinegar, Mountain Sauce, fish sauce) making up the final product. If I could communicate that I was a vegan, the concept was well understood and something appropriate could be thrown together for me.

I learned how to say, "I'm a vegan," in Thai, and while it took me a long time to learn to get the tones right and actually be understood, I eventually did and the cooks got it. I ended up eating way better than I thought I would, and ate tons of green papaya salad, curries (some could be made vegan, some already had shrimp paste blended in), spicy glass noodle salads, roti, and a great variety of noodle/veggie dishes.

In Bangkok, which has all of the culinary variety of an international city, it was even easier, and I followed a friend's recommendation to May Kaidee, a vegan Thai restaurant with multiple locations.

The food wasn't the most spectacular food that I ate in Thailand, but it was wonderful to be able to order easily and without doubts and for that reason it was a positive experience. We started with a hot sweet chrysanthemum tea and spicy banana flower salad.

And then on to a ginger tofu dish with a heavy sauce that seemed more like the Thai food I'd get at home than what I'd been seeing in Thailand:
And then the most interesting item: pumpkin hummus with sticky rice. I'd never had anything quite like this before. It was roasty and spicy and savory, and, per usual sticky rice protocol, we ate it with little paddies of sticky rice we formed in our hands.

Much as I enjoy exploring food, it can become stressful as a vegetarian/vegan always being vigilant about everything I eat and sometimes it just feels good to be in a place where I can relax and order easily off the menu. May Kaidee served as a wonderful little vegan haven in the great fish sauce nation, and I would recommend stopping in if you find yourself in Bangkok looking for a rest.


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