Happy Veggie, happy tummy. That's what's in store for you at this unique fusion restaurant in Koh Lanta, Thailand. Although it has only been open for a year, it has become the must-try restaurant among vegan, veg-curious, and health-conscious locals and tourists. It’s also within walking distance to Lanta Animal Welfare, which makes it irresistibly convenient for tourists—especially vegans—visiting the dog and cat rescue, or anyone who’s worked up an appetite after volunteering to walk dogs in the tropical heat.
The veg friendly restaurant features creatively crafted western cuisine and popular Thai dishes like raw pad Thai, green curry, and papaya salad. They even offer traditional vegan pesto pasta and a raw version using carrot and cucumber noodles.
The owner, Puk, used to work for Lanta Animal Welfare as an outreach coordinator until the nonprofit’s founder encouraged her to open up her own restaurant. Not vegan herself, Puk saw a need for vegetarian and vegan friendly food for “farangs” (foreigners), especially when it comes to vegan Thai cuisine—that means no fish sauce, no eggs and no oyster sauce. Most Thai restaurants think that when you order vegan or vegetarian, you just don't eat meat but can eat anything else made from animals.
That’s one of the major standouts about Happy Veggie—you can go there knowing that the owner and staff have a solid understanding of the differences between vegan and vegetarian dietary preferences. You don’t have to worry about any language barrier that results in your vegan pad Thai being served with eggs or your smoothie served with dairy.
I’ve been on the island for two months now and have probably eaten at Happy Veggie about 20 times. It got to a point where I was almost embarrassed that I was there so much, even though it meant more money for the restaurant.
And because their menu has a considerable selection—from their burgers, sandwiches, and twists on Thai dishes, to their cold-pressed juices, sour or sweet smoothies, shakes and coffee—I still haven’t tried them all. Plus, I tend to go for my favorites like fried spring rolls (with glass noodles and mushrooms…yum!) and raw pad Thai. When it’s cool enough (and by cool, I mean, I’m not dripping with sweat cool), I get either a curry or Tom Kah soup.
I was so impressed by the fact they had fresh, cold-pressed juices, smoothies and healthy elixirs like Green Reboot and Hello Detox. The restaurant is a lot like something I’d find in Los Angeles. I thought I had to say goodbye to it all when I left the mecca of all things hipster, health-conscious and high-maintenance. But alas, it has reached the other side of the world, without the pretentiousness though—just Southeast Asian flair and flavors.
Since I frequent this place so much, I’ve come to know the owner and her goals for the restaurant and herself. She’s always looking for ways to remain competitive on an island that sees new restaurants and resorts sprouting up every season, and introduce new flavors and food offerings—not just for her restaurant but for the island.