I lost my iPhone a couple of weeks ago. It is hard for me to believe I have lasted this long without it. The one thing I clutch at parties when there is no one to talk to, at restaurant tables when I am inevitably the first to arrive, at home just because — my iPhone was a personal lifesaver in a restless sea of social awkwardness and negative thought spirals.
I am now up to my neck in that sea. No one tries to contact me anymore. I feel like people like me less. Yes, I know, my phone is gone. Also, I hate talking on the phone. Don’t pester me with logic! The point is I feel cut off from everything, neglected, and lonely. Overlooked.
I think it’s easy for vegetarians who love food to feel overlooked here, as well. Thai food has never been known for being particularly meaty the way American food is, but it seems to be a lot easier finding a good vegetarian meal in the States than it is here. And the places that do exist in Thailand are often criminally ignored. I’ve been guilty of this myself. Even though I know there are tons of wonderful ways to cook non-meat ingredients, I don’t actively seek vegetarian places out (except for Rasayana Raw Food Cafe, which has wonderful soups. I’m not kidding). It has to be right in front of me.
That problem is compounded when you factor in street food. Perhaps it’s because Thais feel “authentic” Thai food must have fish sauce or shrimp paste in it, or because there are not enough Thai vegetarians around, but when people ask me about street food stalls that are also vegetarian, there are few places to recommend. Does Lemon Farm count as street food?
Well, Ubon Ratchathani has its act together when it comes to this. Raan Booniyom (corner of Thepyothi and Srinaruad roads, 086-871-1580) — less a stall, more a cafeteria, to be honest — offers everything that any vegetarian in Thailand would be happy to try out. In business for the past decade or so, Booniyom is possible because of the efforts of a group of local volunteers who arrive daily to dish up stir-fries, curries, salads, noodles, desserts, and anything else you could think of that is vegetarian.
A khao lad gaeng (curries over rice) counter offers the choice of one curry over rice for 10 baht; 20 baht for three curries. An aharn tham sung (made-to-order) section cooks up stir-fries a la minute. A vegetarian guay thiew (soup noodles) stand costs 15-20 baht; veggie som tum for 15 baht is also on the menu. Possibly best of all are the different drinks available, ranging from nam macaam (tamarind juice) to taro milk and something called “mushroom juice”: need I mention they are homemade?
Is there something like this in Bangkok? Um … not that I know of. That’s not to say that a volunteer-run vegetarian “cafeteria” couldn’t open its doors, somewhere (hopefully close to me), thanks to a group of enterprising food lovers. In fact, I’d be happy to be the first customer! Let me know! Just don’t try to call me.
(Photos by @SpecialKRB)