This Thai vocabulary lesson will introduce you to a list with the names of the different Thai vegetable names as well as some content around the topic. In Thai vegetables mean pàk (ผัก).
There are two terms used to describe vegetarian food. “A-harn jey (อาหารเจ)” and “A-harn mung-sow-ee-rat (อาหารมังสวิรัติ)”. Most places in the south and central regions of Thailand will recognize jey (เจ) or kin jey (กินเจ) – eat vegetarian food, as a generic term for a strict vegetarian or vegan diet as we understand it.
- A-harn (อาหาร) means food
- Jey (เจ) is vegetarian food which roughly translates as a vegan in that it excludes all meat and animal products. Jey is distinctive for its use of mock meat substitutes made from mushroom, tofu, and wheat gluten.
- Mang-sow-ee-rat (มังสวิรัติ) is a Thai word that means food with no meat but can include eggs and dairy.
Know Your Greens!
30 Most Commonly Thai Vegetable Names:
- tomato – มะเขือเทศ (má-kĕua-tâyt)
- eggplant – มะเขือยาว (má-kĕua-yaao)
- spinach – ผักขม (pàk-kŏm)
- collard greens – คะน้า (ká-náa)
- broccoli – บร็อคโคลี่ (brɔ̌ck-ko-lêe)
- cauliflower – ดอกกะหล่ำ (dòk-gà-làm)
- cabbage – กะหล่ำปลี (gà-làm-bplee)
- lettuce – ผักกาดหอม (pàk-gàat-hŏm)
- shallot – หอมแดง (hŏm-dɛɛng)
- onion – หอมหัวใหญ่ (hŏm-hŭa-yài)
- garlic – กระเทียม (grà-tiam)
- cucumber – แตงกวา (dtaeng-gwaa)
- potato – มันฝรั่ง (man-fà-ràng)
- sweet potato – มันเทศ (man-tâyt)
- bamboo shoots – หน่อไม้ (nòr-máai)
- carrot – แครอท (kae-rôt)
- Daikon Radish – หัวไชเท้า (hǔua-chai-táo)
- pumpkin – ฟักทอง (fák-tong)
- beans – ถั่ว (tùa)
- soy bean – ถั่วเหลือง (tùa-lʉ̌ʉang)
- green pea – ถั่วลันเตา (tùa-lan-tao)
- mushroom – เห็ด (hèt)
- corn – ข้าวโพด (kâao-pôht)
- asparagus – หน่อไม้ฝรั่ง (nòr-máai-fà-ràng)
- morning glory – ผักบุ้ง (pàk-bûng)
- chili – พริก (prík)
- bell pepper – พริกหยวก (príg-yùak)
- lemongrass – ตะไคร้ (dtà-krái)
- ginger – ขิง (kĭng)
- okra – กระเจี๊ยบ (grà-jíab)
Nearly every market in Thailand has an abundance of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, and with a few tricks and some planning, you can easily stay a vegetarian for the duration of your stay.
All About Thai Food And Vegetables
You Get What You Ask For
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, start any conversation you have with waiters or cooks with a firm declaration about your special diet. It will be easier to avoid any mistakes if you start by saying, “I’m vegetarian.”
When you want to tell someone you’re vegan, you should say “Gin jay,” as previously described (or a strict vegetarian).
The first element, “gin,” is pronounced like “gimp” with a hard “G.” (as opposed to the J sound). The second word should be spoken slowly and deliberately, with the tone dropping toward the end. Saying “gin jay” ensures that no animal products are used in your food, such as the common ingredient fish sauce.
If you are a vegetarian but still eat egg and dairy and don’t mind a little fish sauce, you can say “Mang-sow-ee-rat” which means food with no visible pieces of meat but can include eggs and dairy.
Good news for vegans: Most desserts in Thailand even vegan. So let your sweet tooth out!
What’s Cookin’ Good Lookin’?
Here are some things you can do to ensure you get your veggies options:
- Print out a sign to show vendors
Thai words can be difficult to pronounce for foreigners, so if you want to be very safe with ordering Thai food, consider printing out a small card to keep in your wallet that says “I’m vegetarian” so you can show it to a waiter or vendor whenever it comes time to order. When you do, make sure you smile and are as polite as possible.
This sign is written in Thai and says “vegan” = เจ
This sign is written in Thai and says “vegetarian” = มังสวิรัติ
- Keep an eye out for the vegetarian restaurant sign
Some restaurants in Thailand will have a sign out front or even on their menu that says it serves vegetarian food. Usually, it’s red and yellow and seems to look like the number 17. Memorize what this looks like so when you explore a new place you can spot the vegetarian places that may not be listed online.
- Research some dishes before you come to Thailand
If you’re serious about sticking to a vegan or vegetarian diet while in Thailand, it’s a good idea to look up some vegan or vegetarian dishes before you go. Animal products such as fish sauce and milk powder can be unexpectedly contained in unexpected dishes. You can be prepared by researching some Thai dishes that sound appealing to you and then asking if the food vendor has them.
To ask about a specific dish, say “มี ส้มตำ ไหม” (mee sôm tam mái) – Do you have green papaya salad?
Sentence structure: มี (mee) + your food name + ไหม (mái)
- Consider staying somewhere with a kitchen: If you already have a house or a condo in Thailand, surely you will use it to prepare your own vegetarian or vegan food. But if you are only traveling in Thailand, you may want to consider staying somewhere that offers you a kitchen. You can find places with a kitchen. Even some hostels offer a shared kitchen. If the latter, this is not only a great way to live more like a local, but also a great way to meet people.
- Take a vegetarian Thai cooking class: If you are going to be in Thailand for a long period of time, you should consider seeking out a Thai cooking class. You might know how to prepare vegetarian or vegan food back in your home country, but internationally shipped food products can become very pricey and difficult to find.
Taking a vegetarian cooking class will be very helpful because not only will it teach you how to prepare delicious dishes, but will also teach you about the different ingredients that are commonly found in Thailand.
The class will give you a new perspective on how foods are prepared, which will in turn allow you to identify vegan or vegetarian foods faster, without asking. Finally, the instructors generally speak very good English so can answer all of your questions about vegetarian and vegan eating in Thailand.
Remain Calm And Veggie On
If you get frustrated and hungry, just remember the common Thai phrase “mâi-bpen-rai (ไม่เป็นไร)” – It’s ok/ no problem/ all good, pick up some fresh fruits and veggies, and know that you are growing as a person! If you really want to learn to speak Thai more fluently, try using the Ling Thai App. There are many great resources for learning Thai available so have a look around. Ling Thai also offers some lessons for free to let you try them out. Download the app today.
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