Feb 21 2013
We’ve enjoyed plenty of great vegetarian food in Bangkok, but one spot that slipped under our radar was Arawy Restaurant near Democracy Monument and a 10-minute walk from the epicentre of Bangkok’s backpacker scene, Khao San Road. If you’re in the mood for cheap, authentic and delicious Thai vegan food (ahaan jay) in a no frills set-up, look no further than Arawy.
“Arawy” is an unusual transliteration of the Thai word for ‘delicious’, usually spelled aroy or aroi in the Roman alphabet. Whatever the spelling, the meat substitutes and vegetarian versions of Thai classics dished out here most certainly hold up to the name. The very welcoming owner has kept her nondescript open-fronted shop in business for over 30 years. She admits it has been aided by the location in Bangkok’s historic district, which sees plenty of foreign sightseers wandering through. “A lot of foreigners eat vegetarian food”, she told us, “but Thai people, just a little”.
Although the shop gets a daily trickle of foreign customers, it doesn’t appear much different than any old khao gaeng shop in Bangkok — if you blink, you’ll miss it. At first glance, the food looks like normal, meaty Thai street cuisine, including meat substitutes easily mistaken for real sausages, fish and hunks of fried chicken. Once the small “Arawy Vegetarian Food” sign did catch our eye, we enthusiastically grabbed a stool at one of the shop’s four simple tables.
In keeping with casual Thai style, there are no menus to read here. Simply peruse the displayed selections and point — your choices will be brought to your table 10 seconds later over a generous plate of white rice. We bowed to the owner’s suggestion of gaeng khiao wan (green curry), which was spicy and chocked full of Asian eggplant, pumpkin and soft hunks of tofu.
Yet the meat substitutes were what made the meal. Like a kid in a candy shop, we watched as our plate was piled high with tender wheat gluten coated in intense prik khing curry paste and an ingenious “filet” of fried fake fish — a blend of tofu and savoury spices sealed up in seaweed (that’s the fake “skin”), deep-fried and sliced in the centre to show off the inner “flesh”.
Although it was testing the limits of our stomach — which incidentally had been filled with boat noodles and khao niew bing minutes earlier — we also couldn’t resist Arawy’s vegan edition of haw muk ma-phrao. Steamed in a ‘cup’ made from coconut husk and topped with a dollop of coconut milk, we enjoyed Awary’s blend of tofu (to replace the usual fish), prik gaeng phet (red curry paste), kaffir lime and spices more than the usual fishy and often over-salted non-vegetarian editions.
About half-way through this not-so-modest mound of food, our charming host plopped a big handful of freshly fried sesame balls on our plate. “Free”, she said with a grin. I managed to finish every crumb — not to be polite but because the food was simply so good that I couldn’t waste a morsel. Despite ordering four selections plus rice and bottled water, I was out the door for only 90 baht; most normal people would happily settle for one or two choices and pay 30 to 50 baht for what would still be a filling meal.
Arawy Resturant is located on Dinso Road (see map), about halfway down this cosy road that runs from Democracy Monument to Wat Suthat and also hosts Bangkok’s city hall. Like many of Banglamphu’s streets, Dinso Road has a wealth of outstanding local style eats, so foodies stay tuned — we’ll have more on the way soon (or if you can’t wait, catch up with Bangkok Glutton). In the meantime, don’t miss Nuttaporn Ice Cream, a five-minute walk away.
Arawy Vegetarian Restaurant
152 Dinso Road (a three-minute walk south of Democracy Monument), Bangkok
T: (02) 224 4517
Open: Daily 07:00 – 20:30
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