Samui Wining & Dining
Just Vegging

Fancy some greens while on Samui? Well here’s where to find them.


16A big juicy fillet steak. Does the sound of that make you drool and want to head to your nearest grill-house? Well then, perhaps you’re better off flipping to the next story. If, however, the thought of consuming meat sends shivers down your spine – not the good kind – then read on. Or, perhaps, you do partake in meat eating, but fancy a bit of a detox from the fleshy food for health benefits. Perhaps you need to entertain guests and have a vegetarian in your party, then by all means, read on. As here we fill you in on the life of a vegetarian on Samui. Well, it’s not as dramatic as that perhaps, but we do tell you where to go to get great veggie food options on the island.

      Travelling vegetarians can sometimes find sourcing decent food a challenge and some countries are just not geared to feeding a meat-free diet. This is no problem in Thailand, as most Thai dishes can easily be made as a veggie-only option. With soya playing a big part in the Thai diet, vegetarians can get their protein intake too, without resorting to carrying around bags of dried lentils to cook in their rooms. The trick is knowing what to ask for in a restaurant. ‘Pak’ means vegetable in Thai, so remember that one. ‘Mai sai’ means ‘not with’ so use this phrase and add the offending ingredient, be it pork (moo), chicken (gai), prawns (goong), or fish (pla).

So for instance try Massaman curry ‘Mai sai gai’ should you want it without the chicken. This creamy potato, peanut and coconut milk based curry is delicious as a vegetarian version. ‘Gin jae’ means ‘eat vegetarian’, and most restaurants would understand what you mean. Remember too that many Thai dishes are cooked using fish sauce, shrimp paste and oyster sauce as flavourings. You need to ask them to leave this out, and flavour using soy sauce instead. Although any restaurant can do meat free, there are a few that are geared specifically towards vegetarian and even vegan diets, and here we recommend a few.

      Radiance Restaurant inside The Spa Resort, Lamai, is known for its vegetarian, vegan and raw food, and the vast menu serves several weight loss, detox and raw food options, as well as meat dishes for the carnivores who can’t do without it. Menu prices are extremely reasonable; here a spicy lentil soup will set you back only 70 baht. Raw food cooking classes are on offer too. The restaurant and resort has a laid-back hippy feel, with tables inside or outside overlooking the beach. A smoothie bar creates every combination of veggie or fruit drink, try the strawberry and beetroot shake. This is a great place to recover after a night out in Lamai.

      Sweet Sisters Café, the new kid on the whole-food block, opened in July 2012, and serves delicious, healthy food from locally sourced produce. The menu is predominantly southern Thai but features fusion food too, with seafood, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free options available. The kitchen never uses MSG, white or polished rice, sugar, farmed fish or shrimp, nor will chef Noiy buy factory chickens – and only uses produce she can find from sustainable organic sources. This quaint little café is located on the corner of routes 4170 and 4173 in the south of the island, and well worth a visit if you’re on that side of the island.

       Located shortly before Big C when travelling from Fisherman's Village, you’ll find June's Art Café – a favourite expat haunt. With well-priced healthy food, and generous portions, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. A daytime venue only, at June’s there's a great selection of sandwiches, including some with tofu, or veggie patties. But not everything is vegetarian, and you'll find specials on the board such as salmon spring rolls. Other favourites are burritos and wraps, whole-wheat pastas – try the prawn and pesto, and the fried rice dishes are a winner. Here they're done with brown rice, delicious and nutty. Vegetarians, who usually only have a limited choice at restaurants, will think they’ve gone to heaven at Junes, as there's page upon page to choose from, with the average price being 80 to 100 baht. This is an MSG-free zone too.

       An old backpacker favourite on Bophut beach is the restaurant at Free House Bungalows, which is busy and popular with locals too. They offer Western and Thai fare, with several pages on the menu dedicated to vegetarian options. Particularly good is the ‘tom kha pak’, vegetable coconut soup, creamy, with strong flavours of lemongrass and coriander. Portions are huge and prices although not cheap, are fair. The shakes are super-sized with unusual combinations, try the chocolate and banana.

      Those looking for something a little more upmarket, will love Amala Restaurant at Prana Beach Villas in Bangrak. Anyone who thinks vegetarian food is boring should give Amala a try. This fully vegetarian restaurant adds an interesting twist to veggie dishes, and meat will not be missed at the table. Non-hotel residents are welcome to book for the restaurant, which is a modern raw-concrete and wood structure, right on the seafront. Many of the herbs and vegetables used are grown on site.

       When it comes to street and beach food, vegetarian options, although fewer, are readily available. Try grilled corn on the cob or grilled sticky rice, without the fish sauce. Veggie spring rolls are easy to find, as are vendors selling freshly chopped fruit kept cool on ice. A portion will set you back only 15 Baht. For those with a sweet tooth, the banana pancakes are a winner; we said meat-free, not sugar and fat-free! Throw the diet out the window, and walk it off along the beach.


Rosanne Turner


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