Samui Wining & Dining
The Quiet Revolution

Vegetarian food on Samui has really taken off over the last few years.

 Vegetarian food on Samui has really taken off over the last few years.Not so long ago it was all a bit of a muddle. Back home, in the West, it was different. People were growing up along with a healthy lifestyle. But here, in Thailand, fast food in all its greasy shapes and sizes was the tops. The big golden arches held a treat that all kids longed for. Sugar and MSG were a part of every Thai recipe. And even though they told you that they had vegetarian food on the menu, all they really meant was vegetables.

Even that old fall-back, Indian food, wasn’t quite to be trusted. Certainly there was a whole boatload of veggie dishes on the menu. But, like the Thai food, it was how it was all put together that was a bit iffy – there’s no point in eating a vegetable dish if it’s been cooked in beef or chicken stock, or fried in the same pan that’s just made a pork curry.

Certainly there were places which were vegetarian in the true sense of the word. Many of the top hotels had a small dedicated vegetarian section on their menus, for example – five or six dishes especially for ‘minorities’. And there were even a couple of New Age retreats which served live sprouting bean shoots between seminars on realigning chakras, renovating crystals or getting to grips with a colon hosepipe. But actual vegetarian restaurants? Places that served whole food?

Today there are more than 50 ‘vegetarian’ restaurants on Samui. It amounts to a quiet-yet-fierce revolution. Nearly all of them are small, independent little eateries, offering wholefood, organically produced items (many from local sources) or simply running a menu of ‘healthy’ dishes. Such restaurants range in outlook from ‘honest, healthy food made from organic produce’ right through to ‘cuisine’ that’s been shaped by an esoteric and alternative outlook on the world. Some menus offer dishes which include fish and white meat. Others find ways of being strictly vegan.

Most revolutions happen with a lot of noise and more than a few protests. But this one has just quietly and serenely appeared from nowhere, in the space of less than a decade. For every sports pub that’s filled each day with people eating pie ’n chips, now there are 10 whole-food restaurants. It’s more than an eating revolution, it’s actually become an entire community network in the Samui sub-culture, with Green Markets and fund raising and charitable entities all being knitted-in together.

More than a few of these healthy-eating restaurants are tucked away in different (and quieter) parts of the island – such as the super Sweet Sisters Café, way off the tourist map down in the south of the island. Or the Yogi Café that’s up the mountain.

But others are more accessible, like ‘The Spa’ in Lamai; initially a healing retreat but now with one of the best health-food restaurants around. Or the very central ‘June’s Art Café’ on the ring-road at Samui Town Center, just outside Chaweng. Or the little-known ‘Juice Queen’ in the middle of Chaweng (which also has a great menu). There’s another one right in Nathon, where everyone ends up at one time or another, titled (tongue-in-cheek) ‘The Road Less Travelled’, right in the middle of the main road going through town – there are very many like these, scattered around Samui.

At this moment, as things stand, there’s no on-going index or Facebook group or website that lists these all together in some kind of online map. Like many things in the process of evolving, this has yet to happen. But this isn’t a small thing. It’s huge. And I’ll bet you a pound to a penny then sometime inside the next year it will erupt bigtime onto the culinary map of Samui. It has to happen, no two ways about it. It’s just not possible for such a quiet-yet-powerful revolution to remain under wraps.


Rob De Wet


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