A haven for the overlooked

Veggie curries and stir-fries at Raan Booniyom

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.

Veggie “shrimp chips”

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?

Homemade drinks on display

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)

6 Comments

Filed under Asia, curries, food, food stalls, Thailand, Ubon Ratchathani, vegetarian

6 responses to “A haven for the overlooked

  1. izziebleu

    I love your blog! I was searching for Thai “Tacos” and happened onto your site. I’m glad I’m not the only one who calls it that. Haha. I too am Thai-American but I can’t read or write Thai so sometimes I make up my own names to Thai dishes.

    One question regarding vegetarian food. When I was living in Bangkok about 10 years ago I went to this place in Chinatown that served Thai vegetarian food. It was a stall. They had this dish that was made out of shredded oyster mushrooms, deep-fried, tossed in a sweet and sour type sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was supposed to be a veggie-friendly version of Thai shredded beef jerky. It was delicious. I spent days looking online trying to find a recipe but to no avail. I sort of made something up and it actually tasted pretty good. But, it wasn’t exactly the same.

    Have you ever tried this? I’m not exactly sure how they did the sauce and am dying to know so I can replicate it. I live in LA and I can’t seem to find anyone here who knows what I’m talking about!

    • That sounds delicious. I will be in Chinatown this week and will definitely be looking out for this. There is a mushroom “jerky” made by Lemon Farm which sounds similar to what you describe …
      Thanks for reading!

  2. Randy Lee Bown

    They were called “cell” phone because the coverage area of each tower was circular in shape on a map, thus each coverage area looked like a cell.

  3. Anney

    Dear Glutton – maybe you would like to sponsor me in an international contest to be the last person on the planet not to have a ‘mobile’ phone…. I think they are called … for some inexplicable reason ‘cell’ phones outside of Australia??

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