Top image: Pimwalun Junmanop
BANGKOK — After two years operating a coffee franchise, entrepreneur Pimwalun Junmanop decided to try something. So she set up her own brand new café with healthy, plant-based food in the Sukhumvit area.
Vibe Coffee & Plant-Based Food was opened in April amidst full-blown coronavirus scares. This means Pimwalun, who is a co-owner, has to change some menus to make it more Thai-oriented since the Western and Chinese tourists are all gone.
She’s no wannabe amateur. Pimwalun, 41, has been a vegan since she was 15 and that adds to the credibility of the new venture.
“Back then our family dog died and someone told me to go vegan to accrue some merits for the dog,” she recalled.
Most customers are here due to health consciousness, only a few due to superstitious belief or good karma.
Vibe Café and Plant-Based Food is not here to make you feel bad that you have been omnivorous all your life, however. If you insist, you can get cow milk for your latte and they serve fried eggs for breakfast and as toppings for some single-rice Thai dishes as well. No real beef or chicken though.
“With the hard economic times, some came here for vegan food because they confided to me they prayed to some deities asking for business success and eating vegan food in return,” she said.
Over the years as a vegan, Pimwalun thought things through and her conclusion was: “Can you really gain merits from not eating meat? In reality, you don’t gain good karma by abstaining from meat eating. You merely cease to commit more bad karma.”
Again, unless you engage the co-owner with the topic, she is not going to talk about it. This is a place for people to at least come for a cleaner food and possibly be free from abattoir-related guilt.
That hopefully, in the distant future, meat-eating will be treated like people committing pedophile activities or keeping slaves, is not something Pimwalun with force down your throat at her café.
Instead, you are treated to a wide array of vegan food at an affordable price.
I ordered khao phad kraphao kai or Fried plant-based chicken with basil leafs and brown steamed rice (90 baht) and a bowl of egg-noodle with plant-based roasted pork and fried gyoza or bamee nahm moo daeng kub kiew krob in Thai (99 baht).
Both are agreeable and sufficiently tasty. No nam pla or fermented fish sauce here. Instead you have Chinese soy sauce.
Among the two, I prefer the kraphao dish. The plant-based meat, coming from a major Thai conglomerate, is sufficiently satisfying in terms of texture and taste. For the second dish, I enjoyed the plant-based gyoza although the plant-based roasted pork was too sweet to my liking.
Plant-based chicken are made from soybeans, wheat and konjac. Konjac added jelly-like texture to the plant-based chicken which Pimwalun said is more expensive than real chicken.
For coffee, I ordered a house-blend latte with soy milk (115). It’s not cheap but very smooth and somehow, soya milk works well with the in house “white blend” of Thai and Brazilian Arabica beans. Highly recommended. You can also have it prepared with cow milk or almond milk.
While Vibe Coffee & Plant-Based Food will unlikely gain any Michelin star anytime soon, it is part of a slow growing wave of health-consciousness driven clean-vegan food.
There are plant-based chicken burgers with BBQ sauce at 219 baht or plant-based Club Sandwich at 79 baht and more.
All in all, this is a preaching-free agreeable vegan dining experience. No accrued good-karma guaranteed, however, since that’s supposed to depend on other actions you committed in your life as well.
Vibe Coffee & Plant-Based Food is located inside Soi Sukhumvit 36. It is open everyday from 6am to 6pm. Call 097-298-5570 for details. This review is unsponsored.