We left Chiang Mai slightly larger than when we arrived. Combining our newfound love of moped travel with the multitude of restaurant options did not necessarily result in an overly healthy stay, but it made us bloody happy. There are several vegan guides to Chiang Mai available online, which we were able to use to help us sniff out the good stuff. We’re particularly grateful to our wonderful friends Caryl and Paul at Vegan Food Quest for theirs and to Mostly Amelie for hers.
Here are the places we particularly loved.
Why not start here. At cinnamon roll heaven. Whaddya want? Juice? Cake? Traditional Thai food? A nice salad? You can pretty much get whatever you want here. Everything is deliciously freshly prepared and the servings are generous. The self-serve bakery area is bursting with buns, slices and pastries. The fridge a cold cabinet of every type of dessert you never knew you wanted to try. You can also buy a pretty impressive range of health foods and other non-edible bits and bobs too. This place does, unfortunately also sell meat so don’t accidentally go ordering a ham omelette or whatever.
This place is particularly cute. Although the crowd is generally made up of non-locals, it has a pretty local feel to it. It’s only a small place so better to get there a little earlier rather than wait until you’re feeling famished, in case you have to wait for a table. The ramshackle look of the place and the fact that the menu was a little confusing made the experience feel a little more authentic somehow. Lots of mock-meat options, if you like that kind of thing. Bamboo Bee sells traditional Thai food, as well as burgers and the like. A good place to go in a group so you can order lots of things and try them all. Slightly more expensive than you might expect, but all in all, a tasty meal was had by us.
At the lovely Amrita Garden, we had the tasty and super healthy meal we had been craving. The menu is a mix of Thai, Japanese and macrobiotic food. Most of it is vegan, with the exception of a few puds which contain dairy or honey. The food took its sweet time, but it was worth the wait (look at that tempeh…). Depending on your mood, you can sit inside or outside, on chairs or beanbags. It’s just generally a nice quiet spot to chill. The portions were decent-sized, apart from the brownie, which was laughably small. It was however mightily scrumptious.
We went to Aum multiple times and the food was consistently good. It’s pretty dark inside at night time so our photos are all a bit crap. Upstairs it’s a shoes off, sit on the floor typed vibe which we really like. This place is big on tempeh and raves about its health benefits. You can pretty much add it to any meal at a fairly minimal charge. We really enjoyed the papaya salad, sushi and pad thai here. Oh and blue sticky rice? Yes please! We’d read quite a few reviews where people had gone crazy about the banana fritters. We tried them, but were a little underwhelmed. Aum is not entirely vegan but with so many options and a huge emphasis on whole grains and fresh and wholesome ingredients, it is one of the best places to get a delicious and inexpensive meal in Chiang Mai.
We stumbled upon this gem of a restaurant one rainy evening towards the end of our stay and have SO many nice things to say about it. Although we didn’t speak to the owner, we did have a lovely chat with her partner, a friendly and interesting guy who was doing great job of looking after everyone. He explained to us that the owner was working hard to work out how to veganize various dishes and as a result there were several things to choose from on an otherwise non-vegan menu. The falafel plate was particularly good and the sweet potato fries were exactly as you hoped they’d be. As the rain thrashed down outside, filling our bike helmets with water (schoolboy error) we enjoyed the cosiness of the place and felt a little sad that we didn’t have time to come back.
Hands down, the best burrito we have ever tried. Did I actually just say that? Yes I did. So absolutely full of flavour that it’s a mystery to us why they feel the need to serve meaty ones as well. Only go for the large one if you are mad hungry, because they are huage. There’s only one specifically vegan option on the menu, but the staff are happy to veganize other options and can replace meat with mushrooms. The really great thing is that unlike some other places, they knock the price down a bit if you take stuff out. The restaurant itself is set down a little shopping alley and has a really shoreditch (trendy-wendy east London) feel to it with bare brick walls and tables spilling outside onto the street. I miss this place :'(
We weren’t really sure whether to include this one, because basically we didn’t really like it as the toppings were really bland. Cheese seemed to be replaced with nuts, which when unseasoned don’t really do much for a pizza. It was a little like eating really good pizza bread with just crunchiness on top. It was hard to pick out any real flavour as nothing seemed to be seasoned. However, there were several options on the menu and maybe we just chose a dud. As I say, the base was tasty and this place is doing a good thing by offering so many vegan options. Must try harder next time.
Incase you’re wondering, yes, that photo below is of a a silky-smooth chocolate pud and if Tom’s hand looks a bit smug in the pic, it’s because it was. That pud was GREAT. Not only is this place a nice spot to sit outside and have a cuppa and a cake, it’s also an excellent place to pick up snacks and supplies for days out or long train journeys (or to eat in your room, as we did). The signage inside is a little confusing, but we were assured that everything in the window was vegan, although only some things had vegan labels. It’s not the cheapest place in the world but definitely worth a visit or 4.
Just around the corner from Da’s is Aroy Dee, which served us a real life version of a delicious-looking photo we had seen hashtagged with #veganchaingmai on instagram. A tofu and cashew veg stir fry at a rock-bottom price. There is literally no reason to not go here and order this simple and satisfying dish!
The final place we wanted to mention was the Saturday night market. If you’re planning to check it out, then it’s best to get there early, like we did. Within a pretty short amount of time, the place was absolutely heaving. Before it all got a bit too rammed for us, we managed to try a couple of tasty dishes. The first was a Thai rice flour muffin. They look a little bit like bath bombs and to be honest, the taste wasn’t far off what you might expect one to taste like. A kind of soft, foamy and slightly sweet snack with a flowery taste. It wasn’t unpleasant. It was definitely fun to try but there was definitely an element of “we’ve bought these, so we’d better eat them now. You go first”.
The other thing we tried was far more delicious. A very large soft spring roll, crammed full of veggies. Keep an eye out for the stall.
Would love to know your favourite places for when we inevitably head back to Chiang Mai!