I almost put off writing this article. I worried it was too ‘over done’ and not original. I like to keep my readers informed about the best places to eat in each city or area we visit but Chiang Mai has become so popular the internet seems flooded with information. With 79 listings on Happy Cow alone it seems there are endless amounts of places to grab great vegan food in Chiang Mai and blog about it. I decided to just bite the bullet and post our favourite places we ate. There were a few meals I had not seen recommended on any blogs and I’m not sure why!
1. Bamboo Bee:
On our last night we realized all of our favourite places to eat are only open for dinner. We were about to fall into a routine and visit Taste From Heaven for the 3rd time when I decided to dig a bit deeper and use Tripadvisor instead. I came across the name Bamboo Bee as one of the top 10 places to eat in Chiang Mai and it was purely vegetarian. Excited to try something new we walked up the street near the north end of the Old City. Bamboo Bee is a very small 14 seater typical ‘hole in the wall’ bare bones kind of place. It’s my favourite style of dining since you can watch your food being prepared fresh right in front of you. We managed to snag the last two seats and looked at the menu. For the style of restaurant we were a bit shocked at the prices, ranging from 95 baht - 170 baht. We ended up ordering the Bamboo Bee Healthy Salad (169 baht, which is much over our usual dinner budget) and a Pad Thai (95 baht) Once the salad arrived I understood why the price was higher than most places. The salad was a tower of shredded cucumber, organic lettuce, cashew nuts, mushrooms, and all topped with tamarind relish and the most amazing passion fruit dressing. It was a culinary experience just eating it and trying to pick out all the flavours. I began to understand why bamboo bee was rated highly. The Pad Thai came next and after one bite we frantically tried to figure out a way to eat here one more time before we left for Bangkok. It was everything a Pad Thai should be, peanut-y, creamy, enough sauce that the noodles had flavour but not a soup. Plus it was a large portion, which we were thankful for. The owner offers cooking classes and also sells an Ebook online (which I really need to get if the passion fruit dressing is in there!)
2. Kun Churn Vegetarian Buffet:
No trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without a visit here for a vegan traveller. I never enjoyed the idea of eating from a buffet, I picture old food sitting out for hours and tables with plates stacked higher then their heads. Kun Churn is different. There is a large organic salad bar, grilled and steamed vegetables, a large hot section with many different curries, vegetable dishes, rices, a make your own soup station, thai desserts, organic bread, and fruit. I have never seen such high quality from a buffet before. It is on the higher end as well for about 169 per person for lunch but is completely worth it when you compare the value you get compared to the many 100 baht buffets in town. They are located right near the Chiang Mai Old Cultural Centre and it took us a good 45 minutes to walk there from the Old Town.
3. Happy Greens:
This is one place that needs to be mentioned more. I thought about keeping it a secret to preserve the integrity and amazing prices but thought that was unfair to you. Located a bit out of town along the Mae Ping River we went by moterbike. The map on Happy Cow is incorrect and it took us a few tries to find it. So all you vegan travellers just need to follow the directions given by the restaurant in the write up on Happy Cow you will have no problems. The prices are much more reasonable starting around 30 baht - 60 baht. All of the produce is organic and the majority is grown right in the organic garden that you overlook while eating on the terrace. It was wonderful to watch the owner pick the ingredients for my salad right in front of me. TIP: the ‘happy greens’ salad is gigantic and wonderful. There are also many raw options for salad dressings and mains.
4. Tips Fresh Fruit:
The best fruit salad in all of Chiang Mai. Breakfast really starts my day on a happy note. Finding the best fruit salad in Chiang Mai is really doing a favour for all vegan and non vegan travellers. The fruit in Thailand is amazing and I try to enjoy it whenever possible. Many places mark up their prices and skimp on the amount of fruit given. Tips Fresh Fruit is located IN the Somphet market. She is open in the morning and does smoothies and monster size fruit salads. It is 40 baht for a great start to the day.
5. Ice Love You:
If fruit aint your thang dontcha worry. I got you. Ice Love You is a super hero themed vegan ice cream parlour that offers over 20 flavours of vegan ice cream and 1 non vegan, which is cheese flavour? You can also get a good vegan banana Rotee along with your ice cream. Tips: Make sure and try the sticky rice flavour!
Speaking of sweet treats, Nanario is located right in the heart of the Old City. They make the most interesting amazing hemp seed ice cream. Its a must-try for a healthy refreshing treat. They also sell some pretty cool handmade hemp clothing and a few other hemp seed desserts such as raw cakes and cookies.
7. Free Bird:
Free bird Cafe is a lovely place just outside of the old city. They give 100% of the proceeds back to the Thai Freedom House which helps burmese refugees in Thailand. The food is very good but also very slow. The Shan Papaya salad makes it worth the wait though. It is made with potato rather than just papaya and adds a very savoury element that works wonders.
8. Gap House:
Gap house hosts a nightly buffet for 120 baht (formerly 90) It is an all you an eat style and features rice, 3 curries, 1 vegetable dish and some small desserts. With the new price I would much rather spend a bit more and go to Kun Churn but the food is good here and the location is handy.
9. Taste From Heaven:
We ate at taste from heaven quite often. Colin fell in love quickly with ‘Spicy Thai’ and it was a staple from then on. The food is good and the wifi is even better.
10. Thai Vegetarian Food:
As budget travellers we try and stick to local eateries to really experience true thai vegetarianism rather than the health oriented western joints that are popping up. The stall is a typical meal of the day type of hole in the wall that serves up good portion sizes, great rice, and healthy but tasty authentic thai curries. For 3 curries and a rice dish expect to pay 30 baht. You can also get large portions of rice to go for just 10 baht.
11. Morning Glory:
Formerly May Kaidee’s branch in Chiang Mai. Morning Glory serves up (small) portions of good food. The stir-fries and curries are their biggest hit. The first time we went I ordered Pumpkin Smash from a recommendation on Happy Cow. It was good flavour but very cold and small. I made the mistake of ordering it a second time when we returned a week later with higher hopes only to be disappointed again. The noodle dishes we tried were much better and filling. We did not find the service to be friendly at all and the floors were a bit dirty for having to take your shoes off outside.
12. Vegetarian Food Stall: bumrung buri road
The always busy vegetarian food stall is filled with locals and tourists every night. The food is made fresh to order and is fully veg. There are lots of choices and all items are 40 baht. We tried the stir fried vegetables which was fine. There was a long wait but i’m okay with that. Waiting for fresh food to be made right in front of your eyes beats cold old food. There are also lots of smoothie and juice stalls nearby to go with your food.
13. Pun Pun:
Oh Pun Pun, what high hopes I had for you. In all honesty this is a hard review to write. We are completely split between Colin’s love for his dish and my utter disappointment with mine. Pun Pun is a great organization, that runs classes on earthen building and gives back to the community. It is located behind Wat Suandok. Make sure to check the hours and days that it is open before going as they have short hours. Our food came out promptly and colin really enjoyed the tofu special with a peanut coconut sauce on top. The portion was fairly small for a main but the sauce was the show stopper. My pumpkin salad actually turned out to be just a grilled assorted vegetable salad similar to something you would expect to get at a pub or steak house in North America. Some of the vegetables in the salad were over cooked and others undercooked. admittedly I should have stuck to ordering Thai food but I was mislead by the description on the menu and thought it could have been a traditional thai salad of sorts. I really enjoyed my iced lemon grass tea although it was served with honey on the side.
14. Ming Kwan:
A typical thai veg pre-made restaurant with a fair amount of ready made dishes. The taste is nothing special and we were not fond of the dishes we picked at random. That being said it is very good value at 30 baht and dishes change every day. It is located on the sunday night walking street so handy if you need a bite while shopping. Popular with locals as well!
15. Juicy 4 U:
a popular blogged about spot open for breakfast and lunch. Has an OK make your own salad option but fairly small for the price.
honerable mention has to go to all the great fruit markets in Chiang Mai as well as the many smoothie stalls around town!
Check out our VLOG about chiang mai and see some of these places featured!