When it came to eating vegan in Phuket, I had actually arrived on the island with a bit of trepidation. I’d been told that eating vegan or even vegetarian was way harder in southern Thailand that it is in the north, and so I’d resigned myself to the fact that I might be eating most of my meals out of roadside fruit stands. Not that that idea bothered me – I love fruit! – but every now and then a girl needs a big bowl of rice, right?
I needn’t have worried, because truth be told, I had almost no problems getting vegan food.
As you know, we spent our time in Phuket in the Kata Beach area, as we had found it to be a great balance of entertainment and relaxation when we visited it previously. Due to the fact that Kata strikes this balance, there are a wide variety of restaurants for you to choose from, with prices to suit all budgets. Certainly the further away from the main roads you get the cheaper food is, but even if you stay on Kata and Koktanode Roads you can find plenty of good vegan food without spending a fortune.
Phuket is home to many great vegan and vegetarian restaurants, including the famous Atsumi Raw Café in Rawai. You can also see from this map here that despite the major tourist centres being on the west coast of the island, there are far more vegan places centred around Phuket Town on the east coast. The catch 22 is that the beaches on the east coast are shallower and muddy, with very little surf. So if you are after a quintessential beach holiday (or some party-time in Patong!) you will need to stay in the west.
We were committed to staying in Kata for the reasons I mentioned above, and certainly we could have gone over to the east side every day to eat, but this just wouldn’t have been practical. Phuket is bigger than some people realise with taxi fares set at very high prices, so this would have meant spending thousands of baht each day just to eat. Plus, we were travelling with my father in law, who is older and not so mobile. He would not have felt comfortable on a rented scooter, and we were not about to leave him in the hotel all day every day while we went out finding food. So we had to make it work in Kata.
If you’ll be staying in the Kata area, you must come to terms with the fact that there is only one exclusively vegan restaurant there, which is at Santosa Detox and Wellness Centre. However, Santosa’s pricing and location a long walk from the main strip (as mentioned, long walks weren’t possible) meant we had to find much closer options. Likewise, unless you are planning to leave Kata or eat at Santosa for every meal, you will need to make your peace with the fact that a lot of your food is going to come from restaurants that also serve non-vegan food. However, if you are okay with this, there are several places that will eagerly rise to the vegan challenge.
Like everywhere, the key to getting the food you need is: communication. Because it is a touristy area there are a lot of places priding themselves on their steaks and cheeseburgers. In my experience, I think that when I came in wanting only rice and vegetables, it threw them a bit. But I simply explained what I could eat (as opposed to what I could not eat), and things were fine most of the time.
Here is my list of places who made the process as easy as possible.
This beachfront restaurant is located at the southern end of Kata Beach, at the end of the alley immediately opposite Chanalai Garden Resort. Most people walk through the restaurant as a quick shortcut to the beach but it really is worth stopping for a meal as well. (It is also the place we were eating at the beach in this vlog here.
Kata BBQ prides itself as being a seafood place, but its menu is fairly big so you certainly are not limited. They will happily veganise your fried rice or other meal for your and make other menu adaptions. It’s slightly pricier than some other places, but the view looking down the beach is wonderful.
This place is located at the very beginning of Kata Road, on the corner of Koktanode Road and directly opposite the Horn Grill Steakhouse. It is not the cheapest, it seems very geared towards high-meat Western foods, and in my experience the staff were not always friendly. However, they are happy to adjust the menu items as needed. They cooked my fried vegetables in soy sauce instead of oyster sauce, and removed the egg, oyster sauce and fish sauce from my vegetarian pad Thai.
They also have a free salad bar which comes in handy, especially if you eat high raw.
The Old Siam Restaurant is located down one of the restaurant streets across from the Municipal Offices (near Kata Beach Resort). Most of the restaurants in that area are lovely places to sit and enjoy a meal at any time of the day, but I liked this one in particular. Its vegetarian menu has several accidentally vegan items (such as the mixed vegetable green curry) and they have several vegan desserts. I had the sago and black bean in coconut cream – yum!
The prices are good for Phuket (vegetable fried rice for 90 baht, garlic rice for 60 baht, etc). The staff initially did have some trouble understanding me but we got there in the end. I found that service could be a little slow at times however, so that is something that could definitely be improved.
This place is just a little way down Koktanode Road, near the corner of Kata Road. It is important to know that there are two 44 Thaikitchens in Kata; the other one is located up near The Old Siam Restaurant. This one is known as 44 Thaikitchen Kata Noi, even though it’s not strictly in the Kata Noi area.
I would imagine the two restaurants have identical menus, but we fell in love with this one because, apart from it being closer to our hotel, we adored the family who runs the place. As well as the restaurant, they also run a guesthouse and travel agency, and we hired motorbikes from them when were there in 2012. The main host at the restaurant is a cheerful, friendly guy named Chai who will be your best mate by the time you have finished eating. (In fact, in between our visits to Kata, we forgot the actual name of this restaurant, simply calling it “Chai’s place” instead).
44 Thaikitchen has an extensive vegetarian menu, most of which is actually vegan or can be made vegan. The mango and sticky rice was lovely, as were the vegetables with cashew nuts! Another thing that impressed me was that when I first ordered and requested no fish sauce, no oyster sauce and no egg, Chai immediately asked if I was vegetarian. I said vegan, and he seemed to already be familiar with the concept (which is impressive, as in many parts of Thailand – even in touristy areas – vegetarianism and veganism are considered the same thing).
FRIED RICE RESTAURANT (not to be confused with Southern Fried Rice Guest House!)
Fried Rice is in Kade Kwan Road, next to Fork & Spoon, only a short walk from the corner of Kata Road. It’s a great place to get very cheap and delicious Thai food in good portion sizes.
I ordered mixed vegetables in soy sauce (which, like so often, was changed from oyster sauce) for 100 baht. A side of steamed rice is 20 baht (which, again, is cheap for Phuket). I also got coconut juice fresh from the coconut for 80 baht – on the main road, I’d be looking at over 120 baht for a coconut.
This one is also in Kade Kwan Road, but closer to the corner of Kata Road. Most Thai dishes range in price between 100 and 120 baht (vegetarian fried rice was 80 baht), with steamed rice being 15 baht, the cheapest we saw in central Kata. What I really liked about Eightfold, however, was that their menu says that they are happy to cook you anything, provided they have the ingredients. I ordered mixed vegetables with ginger which was not actually on the menu and that was no problem.
Something else that really made me love this place was that, after I’d ordered and done my usual request for no egg, no fish sauce and no oyster sauce, my husband ordered vegetarian pad Thai. He isn’t vegan so he didn’t need to deviate from the menu, but because of my order, the waiter asked if he wanted egg excluded from his meal too. I really appreciated that they had such attention to detail.
This Indian place in Koktanode Road, just across from The Boathouse, was just lovely. We tried them on a whim while walking past one night and we were so glad we did – the staff have amazing service and they are so respectful of vegetarianism and veganism. They automatically removed butter from my vegetable biryani once I explained that I was vegan. Everything was so delicious and portion sizes were great. They are definitely worth seeking out even if you staying at the opposite end of Kata Beach.
ORCHID (not to be confused with the Orchid Hotel!)
Orchid is tucked away in a laneway that is almost directly opposite the T intersection between Koktanode Road and Kata Road. (Not the one that goes up the hill – it is the one a little further south, where fresh seafood is sold).
They have an extensive menu, so if you are dining with omni friends and family you will all have a wide choice. Vegetarian or vegetable dishes can easily be made vegan and I found that the staff were very understanding. Their veggie dishes are very well priced, with pad thai at 90 baht and steamed rice 30 baht. Drinks are a little pricey, but this is offset by the cheap food.
I really loved this place! Located right in the centre of busy Kata Road, it is a nice, quiet spot to relax, especially during the heat of the day when you’re looking for somewhere cool to escape to. I had the mushroom biryani, which is automatically vegan and needs no adjustments. My husband had the vegetable pokara. Portion sizes are big and filling and service was brilliant.
According to Happy Cow, Khan Baba also has a separate kitchen area for cooking vegetarian and vegan food. Always a plus!
Yes, this place really is called Thai Restaurant! It is a charming, tiny little eatery made of wood near Bamboo Village and Club Med (look for its multiple hanging plants). Although it is very close to the road, it has great ambiance and is a great place to people-watch. The waitress understood veganism without me having to explain myself too much, and I discovered they are happy to make any meat dish with vegetables instead.
I ordered the pad kra pow (Thai sweet basil) and it came with lots of mushrooms and tofu. Delicious!
Of course, there are plenty of other places for you to find vegan food in Kata Beach. There are multiple fruit stands everywhere and plenty of places to get fruit shakes. Also, although it is great to support small businesses, don’t be afraid to gravitate to the larger chains if there is something in particular you are looking for. As in other parts of Thailand, 7-11 actually has vegan microwave meals and if you are craving some coffee but are despairing over the fact most restaurants only have dairy milk, places like Starbucks and Coffee Club both have soy. You can even get sorbets with fruit toppings from Swensens, the big ice cream chain.
OTHER VEGAN-FRIENDLY RESTAURANTS ON THE ISLAND
If transport is not a problem for you, or you still aren’t sure where to locate yourself during your time in Phuket, here are some other vegan restaurants that come highly recommended.
Bang Tao & northern beaches (popular with families) – Raw Vegan Green
Nai Harn (classy and quiet, the southernmost tip of the island) – Phuket Vegan Nai Harn Beach
So these are my tips on how to survive as a vegan visiting Kata Beach! Do you have any other places you would like to add to the list? Any other tips on being a vegan in Phuket in general? Has this list helped you on your travels to Phuket? Leave a comment and let me know!