Vegetarian Festival – Thailand

When is it?

The annual Vegetarian Festival is held during the ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar.

This nine-day, meat-free holiday festival is celebrated nationwide.

The History

The Vegetarian Festival is a religious one that originated in China. It honors the nine Taoist emperor gods and during the Vegetarian Festival, Thai people practice jay, or veganism.

This religious event was first observed in Phuket for the first time approx. 170 years ago,

An Opera group was working in Phuket to entertain Chinese miners who were working in Kathu, a town in Phuket. However, after several months of working, the troupe was hit by an epidemic the theater was shut down and several people died.

Many people thought that they were being punished for not performing religious rites whilst in Asia. This was the point it was decided to abstain from eating meat and animal oil for a period of nine days and nights.

What to Eat?

Although the festival is called the Vegetarian Festival, the food that is sold throughout this nine-day festival is actually strictly vegan, or jay. All meat off limits, vegetables and fruit are the dietary main stays for 9 days.

Eating jay during this festival is very strict and goes beyond just sticking to a vegan diet. Those who participate are not allowed to eat sharp-tasting vegetables, for example, onions. Partially this is so because it requires the plants to be uprooted and therefore killed but also because these vegetables are said to ignite passion, leading people to potentially breaking some of the given rules put in place during the festival.

Other pungent vegetables, to avoid eating if you are participating in the festival include garlic, tobacco and chives. As is standard for vegans, participating Thais are not allowed to eat milk or eggs.

In addition to not eating meat, those practicing jay must observe a high moral standard of living. Those who are devoted to this festival will wear white and will be expected to be mindful of their actions and thoughts, as they attempt to cleanse both their minds and bodies.

Tasty Vegetarian Dish Recommendations:

·   Pad Krapao Tau-hu (Tofu fried with basil and chili)

·   Pad Tau-hu Priew Waan (Sweet and sour fried tofu)

·   Tom Yam Hed (Sour & spicy mushroom soup)

·   Pad Thai (Thai fried rice noodles)

·   Pad Pak Ruam (Mixed fried vegetables such as baby corn, carrot and snow peas)

·   Po Pia Thod (Fried spring rolls)

·   Pak Thod (Deep fried vegetables in batter – similar to Japanese tempura)