In 2016 I saw a Thai food restaurant – ‘Thai Express’ – in the domestic departure area of Don Mueang Airport. I tried asking their staff about vegetarian food but they either did not understand my question or did not have any veg food. Later I saw one of their outlets in Pattaya. This one was next to Burger King at Royal Garden Plaza on Beach Road but due to my earlier unsuccessful attempt at their DMK outlet, I did not venture into it immediately. The question remained – why won’t they have any vegetarian food on their menu? So I decided to make one more attempt. To my surprise, Thai Express Pattaya not only had vegetarian food, but there was even a good selection of it. There were veggie soups, vegetarian Phad Thai, vegetarian noodles, stir-fried vegetables, and two different preparations of tofu. Was all of that 100% vegetarian? The menu had two full pages titled “Veggies Delight” with a green leaf icon printed next to it but in the description of at least one dish I could see eggs as one of the ingredients. This was not uncommon. In perhaps the best vegetarian Thai restaurant in Pattaya – Five Star J – some of the dishes contain eggs but those are clearly marked in the menu. Same at Thai Express, one of the two veggie soups on offer contained eggs. My next logical question would be of Shrimp Paste.
Shrimp Paste in Vegetarian Thai Curry?
Most of the commercially produced Thai curry paste contains shrimp paste. So when a regular Thai restaurant promises to make a “vegetarian Thai curry” for a customer, it is not actually vegetarian because the curry paste they use for the curry would contain shrimp paste. At Thai Express, the lone staff I spoke to said “no shrimp paste”. Also, its a chain of restaurants and if they want to have vegetarian food on their menu, why would they use shrimp paste. Just to be sure, I would carefully read the menu description to make sure there are no eggs mentioned and it would not hurt to ask the staff every time about shrimp paste.
Thai Express Pattaya
As I said earlier, Thai Express is a chain of restaurants and their outlets can be found in different places and different cities in Thailand. So far I have seen them in Bangkok and Pattaya. The Pattaya outlet at Royal Garden Plaza opens everyday from 10.30am to 10.30pm.
Thai Express Vegetarian Menu
Their signature vegetarian soup – Tom Yum Hed Nang Fah (Tom Yum Oyster Mushroom Soup) looks inviting at 160 THB. You can see the picture above that I lifted from their printed menu. The rest of the vegetarian menu is as under:
Kang Kong with Fermented Beans and Chilli Padi – 110 THB
(Stir-fried Kang Kong with fermented beans)
Assorted Vegetables with Mushroom – 130 THB
(Stir-fried mixed vegetables in fragrant mushroom sauce)
Dark Soy Tofu – 130 THB
(Stir-fried tofu in dark soy sauce with fresh spring onion and red chilli)
Glass Noodles with Enoki Mushroom – 140 THB
(Vermicelli salad with enoki mushroom, tossed in lime and chilli dressing)
Vegetarian Phad Thai – 180 THB
Thai Basil Stir-fried with Tofu and Chilli Served with Rice – 180 THB
(Stir-fried tofu with sweet and sour sauce)
The last one is a complete meal as it comes with rice too. Otherwise, a serving of jasmine rice can be ordered at 35 THB along with any of the above dishes. The prices are all-inclusive, there is no extra tax or service charge. I took my order packed and there was no extra packing charge too.
*Prices may have changed since my last visit to the restaurant.
My order of ‘assorted mixed vegetables with mushroom’ looked and tasted good along with the jasmine white rice. It always feels good to eat fresh vegetables. The total price of 165 THB (130 + 35) was very reasonable if I compared it to anything that I could get in any Indian restaurant in Pattaya. I liked Thai Express.
Other Outlets in Thailand
Thai Express is a multi-national chain operating from seven different countries. In Thailand they have seven outlets including those at airport terminals. You may visit this link for the updated list and addresses: https://thaiexpress.com.sg/locate-us/#thailand
Even Better Value in Bangkok
Here’s a bonus tip. If you are anywhere near the Nana / Asoke area of Bangkok, just head to the 5th floor food court of Terminal 21 Shopping Mall. There you will need to look for this counter that says “Vegetarian Food”. You will be surprised to know that a full meal of three vegetarian dishes and brown rice can be ordered here for just 40 THB. Read more about Vegetarian Food in Terminal 21 Bangkok here.