16 Southeast Asian Vegetarian Recipes for dinner, ranging from Thai to Filipino, that are packed with flavour.
Vegetarians in SouthEast Asia
In most of the world, a vegetarian diet is pretty straightforward: no meat or poultry +
- yes to dairy but no eggs and fish (lacto-vegetarian)
- yes to eggs but no dairy and fish (ovo-vegetarian)
- yes to eggs and dairy but no fish (lacto-ovo vegetarian)
- yes to fish but no dairy or eggs (pescatarian)
Note: vegan diets exclude all of the above and sometimes even plant-based products that are considered to be harmful to animals, such as avocado and almonds.
However, in Asia, there is another type of vegetarian diet, the Buddhist vegetarian diet, that doesn't allow for the consumption of pungent roots and alliums such as scallions, chives, leaks, onions and garlic, even though they're, strictly speaking, plants. (They're thought to increase one's libido when consumed raw.)
So, if you are inviting Buddhist vegetarians over for a meal, do make sure to check that they're good with these aromatics before planing your dishes!
If you're a fan of food from the Philippines, try this calamansi lime dipping sauce, which goes really well with siomai and meat! (Filipinos call it Toyomansi.)
Vegan Mi Goreng
This makes a great vegetarian side dish.
For a vegetarian Laotian dish, try plant-based Larb- if travelling in Laos, do make sure fish sauce is not used, as the sauce is pretty ubiquitous in the food! You can say "Baw sai nâm pa" (No Fish sauce.)
Note: there is a similar Northern Thai dish.
Try vegetarian Khao Suey for a Burmese plant-based dish. As with Larb, Northern Thailand has a similar dish "Khao Soi", which is 1 of my favourite Thai recipes! I used to eat it all the time when I travelled to North Thailand with a family friend who was born (and grew up) there.
Singaporean & Malaysian
The fight between Singapore and Malaysia regarding which produces the best food has been raging for years.
Whilst different people have different opinions- some swear by Singaporean and others love Malaysian- 1 thing we can't deny is that the 2 countries have many similar dishes so I'm grouping them both in the same category.
You can get by with English in Singaporea and Malaysia but just in case:
- tiada daging ("no meat" in Malay)
- wo chi su ("I eat vegetarian food" (我吃素) in Chinese- be careful not to say "wo chi chu" which means "I eat vinegar" aka "I'm jealous!)
- Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to say vegetarian in Tamil but I've never met an Indian person in Singapore and Malaysia that wasn't fluent in English!
For more Singaporean recipes, click here.
Potato curry puff (karipap)
Note: in Singapore & Malaysia, there is a large Indian and South Asian population, so the 2 countries have many South Asian dishes as well. For vegan and vegetarian South Indian recipes, click here or check out some samosa dipping sauces here.
Pandan kueh dadar without eggs
If you're a fan of pandan, you may be keen on sweet & savoury pandan recipes
Agar agar Jelly
Also known as Kanten Jelly, although Agar Agar is a Japanese jelly, it's something that almost every Singaporean and Malaysian kid grew up eating. In fact, it was 1 of the 1st recipes my cousins and I ever made!
The jelly is super refreshing in the tropical humidity, and it is full of fibre, so if you don't put in too much sugar, it's actually good for you as it helps to keep you full for longer.
If vegetarian in Thailand, you need to know the word "jay" which means no animal-based products.
Green curry paste
Coconut noodle soup
In Vietnam, vegetarians would be looking for "chay" food.
If you end up with too much of this herb, here are 39 other ways to cook with lemongrass.
Deconstructed Vietnamese rolls
Which of these SouthEast Asian vegetarian recipes is your favourite?
If you've enjoyed the collection of dishes, I'd be super grateful if you shared it on your social media!