Pattaya Survivors: Ning’s Five Star J is the resort’s vegetarian survivor


Ning Five Star J restaurant owner Ning (center) with chef Supanee (left) and cook Salawut (right).

Positioned on South Road, at the intersection with Third Road, is the most successful vegetarian restaurant in the resort. Founded 20 years ago, Five Stars has had several owners and has been in the capable hands of Thonglor (NIng) Sadiang since 2014. Born and brought up in northern Thailand, Ning was a young adult before she turned to vegetarianism. “My conversion was created by my hatred of animal cruelty and the fact that a vegan lifestyle is so much more healthy,” she said.

Arriving in Pattaya 20 years ago, Ning’s first business venture was a general restaurant in Soi Diana Inn which she ran with a partner for eleven years. Moving to Five Stars with business partner Bruno, now recently retired, she took over a vegetarian cafe which was in need of a reboot. “We had to start afresh with new menus after a thorough spring clean of the premises,” she recalls. “We serve only healthy food with fresh-daily fruit and vegetables and absolutely no MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, white sugar or transfats of any kind.”

There’s a common misconception that vegetarian food, especially the vegan option, is boring. But Ying’s menu reveals the international roots. From India, there’s Massaman shiltake curry, from Mexico tortillas and tacos, and steamed spring rolls in rice paper from Vietnam to name but three. The chicken, duck or pork dishes are created from soy protein, whilst crab meat is made of Konjac roots. Many of the salads are Thai provincial favorites such as Yum Sam Grob which can be ordered in varying degrees of spiciness. The total menu items are more than 200.

The last two years of the pandemic has been a difficult period, but the restaurant has always been open when government regulations for Covid have permitted. Ning says that the loyal expat base have kept the premises going when international tourism sank virtually without trace. She has a new business partner from Norway, Ole S. Egeli, who is not currently based in Thailand but is keen to become involved. Tourism is now improving rapidly with the abolition of Test and Go health checks and the likely suspension of thee Thailand Pass bureaucracy during the summer.

World research shows that vegetarianism is on the rise almost everywhere as people rethink traditional values. Long ago, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “People eat meat to become as strong as an ox, yet the ox eats grass.” More recently, Linda McCarney observed, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, the whole world would be vegetarian.” She likely has a point there.