Most people think vegan foods are boring. We all would rather eat meat than not. But what if vegan foods can deceptively copy the taste of meats so well that you can’t easily tell the differences by eating? In this post, I will show you these foods from Red Rice & Hot Soup Vegan Restaurant ร้านอาหารเจ ข้าวแดงแกงร้อน.
Being a vegan is hard because eating meat is tasty. Giving up all the tasty meat requires a strong self-control, especially in Thailand where foods are everywhere. When I walk down a street to go to vegan restaurants, I have to mentally resist all the tempting smells of street foods like fried chicken, grilled pork, and fish. Fortunately, Thai vegan foods can be tasty too if you know where to look.
Red Rice & Hot Soup ข้าวแดงแกงร้อน
Red Rice & Hot Soup Vegan Restaurant is a Thai vegan restaurant located on Nawamin 50 alley in the northeastern part of Bangkok. The place is close to Santi Asoke Vegetarian Society cafeteria that I wrote about earlier. While Santi Asoke’s restaurant focuses on health, Red Rice & Hot Soup focuses on taste and edibility of vegan foods. The restaurant wants to make vegan foods taste just as good as meats so that more people can easily try vegan foods.
Their dishes consist of Thai cuisine from every region of Thailand. But the main highlight is the famous Khao Soi from the north. It’s basically a coconut milk curry with egg noodles. In place of meats, the dish contains soy protein pieces as imitation meats. The noodle tastes just like actual egg noodle but of course, there is no egg. The soup is creamy, sweet and bit spicy like how Khao Soi should be.
I know it’s hard to believe that vegan foods can taste like regular foods with meats. It’s like saying ladyboys are as feminine as women. Until you actually try the foods for yourself, all I can show you are the pictures. Please note that the foods this restaurant serve do not look exactly like my pictures. I arranged these foods myself with extra vegetables and condiments that they provide customers at the front counter. You certainly can make your foods like mine if you wish. Now let’s go see what else they serve.
Vegan Hot Dogs and Meatballs
I didn’t believe myself at first when I ate their vegan hot dogs. The smell, texture, and taste are very similar to actual hot dogs. Although I’ve been to many sausage fests, I’m still not an expert at hot dogs. However, I think these vegan hot dogs taste better than most low-grade mystery meat hot dogs in the US. Same for the meatballs. It would be hard to tell the differences between vegan meatballs from here and average mystery meat meatballs sold on the streets.
Still, I sparingly eat these vegan hot dogs and meatballs. Again, soy protein and wheat are the usual ingredients for the imitation meats. They are not exactly the healthiest things to eat.
Fortunately, they also have grilled mushrooms. At first, I didn’t expect much. But when I eat it, it tastes almost exactly like grilled calamari. It also comes with Thai seafood sauce to make me believe
Vegan Rice Plates
If you want something healthy, try their rice plates with toppings. They cook something different each day depending on which fresh vegetables are on the market. My favorite topping is stir-fried water morning glory. The taste is crunchy, a bit salty and oily. It also has vitamin C, vitamin A, and protein.
Other toppings include all kind of popular Thai dishes such as green curry, Massaman curry, Tom Yum and Tom Kha. All these common Thai dishes stay true to their original taste even with only vegan ingredients.
If you enjoy bitterness like me, try fried bitter melon. Its bitter aftertaste will love you long time. If you don’t enjoy bitterness, try boiled bitter melon or other vegetables with chili sauce. The boiled bitter melon actually isn’t bitter at all. Also, the bitter melon soup is actually very well balanced in taste and not bitter as well.
There are many toppings I still have not try. The option seems endless. You can eat rice toppings on their own (without rice) to reduce carb intake. But in Thailand, we call them rice toppings because people usually eat them with rice.
Like the restaurant’s name “Red Rice”, the rice served here is red rice mixed with white jasmine rice. Like brown rice, red rice is more nutritious than white rice. However, red rice is not soft and not very nice to eat. White jasmine rice helps soften the texture, creating a reasonable blend of nutrition and softness.
Vegan Special Rice Plates
In addition to their rice toppings, you can eat most common Thai special rice plates here. I call them special because the rice for these dishes is not just regular steamed rice. Also, restaurants usually serve these plates by itself. For example, Khao Mun Gai (Thai Hainanese Chicken Rice) uses chicken’s fat to cook the rice to enhance its texture and smell. The vegan version here again uses soy protein to replace chicken’s meat. Notice how the appearance looks very similar to boiled chicken. As for the rice, they probably use some kind of oil to simulate chicken’s fat.
Can you even tell that there is no meat on these dishes?
Vegan Noodle Soups
Staying true to their name “Hot Soup”, this place offers a wide selection of Thai noodle soups in vegan form. They include Yentafo (Pink Noodle Soup), Tom Yum noodle soup and Guay Jab (Rolled Noodle Soup).
Having tried them all, my only complaint is I wish they would use more real vegetables as ingredients in these noodle soups. These soups mostly consist of noodle (carb) and imitation meat (protein and carb). But then again if they add other vegetables, the taste could be too distorted from the recipe.
There is usually one dessert each day. From what I saw, it’s usually some kind of fruit or vegetable in sweet coconut milk. They also sell vegan cookies and other dried snacks.
Although most vegetables here are not organic, Red Rice & Hot Soup get their vegetables from the market daily. Their tasty foods do not have artificial additives such as MSG. They also use brown sugar instead of white sugar.
If that’s not impressive enough, they also do not use garlic or onion. This is because their foods are “Jeh” diet compliant. Jeh (เจ, 齋/斋) foods are vegan foods that also do not contain specific vegetables such as garlic and onion. Most Thai-Chinese Buddhists commonly eat Jeh foods for their spiritual practice. Still, the foods here taste very good and authentic even without the essential ingredients of Asian foods.
Story of Red Rice & Hot Soup Restaurant
Back in 1997, Red Rice & Hot Soup was only a food cart. Prior to this, the owner, Pin, volunteered in Santi Asoke Vegetarian Society cafeteria for about five years. With that experience, Pin started his own vegan restaurant and gradually grew the business. Most Thai people who eat here told me the foods are very good. Some even said this is the best vegan restaurant in Bangkok.
The name “Red Rice & Hot Soup” refers to a Thai proverb about gratitude. In the past, many poor children grew up in Buddhist temples by eating leftover foods from the monks. Red rice and hot soup refer to these foods. “Do not forget the red rice and hot soup” means to remember the gratitude and return the kindness appropriately.
As a child, Pin grew up in Santi Asoke Buddhist temple. He chose this name because he wants to return the gratitude of the foods that he grew up with. Accordingly, the food’s prices here are below average because profit isn’t the primary goal. Pin wants to show people that vegan foods can taste as good as regular foods. Having eaten here many times, I would say the restaurant is very successful at that.
The restaurant opens from 6AM to 4PM every day except Wednesday. Here is the map for your convenience. Parking space is very limited.
If you like Thai foods and want to try a vegan diet, Red Rice & Hot Soup Vegan Restaurant is the place to visit in Bangkok. Both locals and Chinese tourists frequently eat here. The foods are fresh and taste authentic without any meat, onion or garlic. On the downside though, the foods are not as healthy as vegan foods can be but good enough for most people.
For the disclosure, the restaurant does NOT pay me to write this. I write this with my own opinion. The owner, however, gave me a bowl of Khao Soi for me to take pictures and eat.