Anotai Vegetarian Restaurant

From Temptation to Tempeh

Written by Kompit Panasupon

“The Plant Issue”, October-November 2023 

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When friends come to visit Thailand, they almost always ask me for food recommendations. After all, 92.8 per cent of what I post on social media is food. I do come with an extensive list of places to eat, from street vendors in the narrowest of alleys to fine dining restaurants that will cost you a limb, so it has always been a breeze to give recommendations; just tell me what you want, and I will customise you a list! So you’ve been in Thailand for two weeks now and are missing a hearty taste of France? Head to Indigo or the newly renovated Le Bouchon for some lamb sweetbread and brains. Oh wait, you want French but more on the seafood side? Then check out Le Cagette or Le Cabanon if your pocket is full.

But then there are those more difficult-to-please friends: the ones who don’t eat meat.

Vegan jokes aside, I actually find that most local Thai restaurants are quite flexible at providing vegetarian or vegan options, even if they do not advertise themselves as such. They are usually more than happy to help meet customers’ dietary requirements, although gluten-free is still a concept alien to most Thai people—so good luck with that!

As for myself, I actually try to do a meat detox, every now and then, for a week at a time. However, after about three or four days, my craving for meat tends to reach its peak, and I give in. Once though, I was able to pass that fourth-day wall, thanks to my mother, who suggested I visit one particular Thai vegan restaurant and try their tempeh dishes. I was sceptical, of course, but I decided to give it a go. 

Tempeh Tempura
Tempeh Tempura

Anotai is an organic vegetarian restaurant with its own bakery, located on Rama IX Road near the hospital. Well-regarded within the Thai plant-based community but perhaps a secret to those outside of it, I ordered what I was told would blow me away: Tempeh Tempura, Kua Kling Tofu on Rice (tofu stir-fried in southern curry paste), and Roasted Aubergine Chilli Dip. This was my first time trying tempeh, so I didn’t know what to expect. I remember biting through the crunchy outer layer into the dense yet soft middle of the tempeh. The sweet dipping sauce with ground peanuts and chilli flakes added so much flavour to neutral protein. Even though it was a small portion, it felt rather filling, and I soon realised the sensation was akin to eating fried chicken! Now I get what my mother meant.

Then came the stir-fried tofu on rice. The tofu was so finely minced, I found it hard to believe that there would be any texture left, though there certainly was. The steaming hot rice really brought out the aromas of the herbs in the curry paste, and the roasted eggplant dip, which was served with a variety of organic vegetables, was a nice additional side to the rice.

Roasted Aubergine Chilli Dip
Roasted Aubergine Chilli Dip

Most of the vegetables served at Anotai come from their own farm, Rai Pluk Rak, in Ratchaburi. The owners like to organise a variety of events and activities for adults and children to learn about organic farming, cooking, and preserving the environment.

Before writing this article, I decided to revisit Anotai for lunch and order the three same dishes. Left just as satisfied as my first time there, I was full til evening! 

976/17 Rama IX Road
Open Thursday–Tuesday 10am–9:30pm

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