The annual Chinese vegetarian festival is now on until the 19th. On Tuesday I made it out to the Talaat Noi area where a Chinese temple called Saan Jao Jo Sue Kong is a centre of all the meat-free frenzy. Here heaps of white-clad worshipers come to watch ngiw (a Chinese drama, shown at the top of this post) pray, burn incense and candles, and buy the paper lanterns that form a virtual roof over the temple.
This is all fun, but my main goal was to eat, and my favourite dish to eat during the veggie festival is mii lueang, stir-fried Hokkien-style noodles:
At Talaat Noi these were made at very popular stall where had to wait about 20 minutes before we even got a seat.
Another thing I really enjoyed was khanom tup tab, a snack made by pounding peanuts with sugar until a thick, sweet skin is formed:
This is then wrapped around crushed peanuts. The result looks similar to, and tastes almost exactly like Butterfinger, but without the chocolate. Delicious.
Here and elsewhere in Chinatown you’ll find meat-free versions of most popular Chinese-Thai dishes, including noodles, stews and stir-fries. Oddly enough though, despite this being a vegetarian festival, you’ll find very few vegetables, and hardly anything green, Thailand’s Chinese community preferring soybean and flour-based dishes.
A few more pics from the veggie festival, including some from last year’s, can be seen here.
Every year at October, many Thais of Chinese origin choose to wear white, abstain from eating meat (and garlic and alcohol), and spend lots of time at the temple. Apparently there are significant historical and religious reasons behind all this, but we’re really only interested in the food, aren’t we?
And there’s much to be had at this week-long festival. Many restaurants choose to serve only vegetarian food (known in Thai as ahaan jay), advertising their choice by flying the yellow flag seen above. Not all of the food is very good, but it’s a fun time to try new things that aren’t normally available. I happened to be in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown, the center of much of this meat-free madness, and did some exploring. I started the day with a tasty dish of kwaytiaow lord:
hearty rice noodles topped with a few different kinds of tofu and bean sprouts. This was accompanied by a to-go bag of delicious deep-fried spring rolls:
These two dishes more or less set the tone of the day, as despite this being a vegetarian festival, there are surprisingly few vegetables to be seen. Starchy stuff such as noodles:
and steamed buns:
make up the bulk of this “vegetarian” cuisine. Apparently the Chinese have a difficult time parting with their beloved flesh, making their vegetarian food as similar to meat possible, as illustrated in the astonishingly lifelike “duck” meat below:
as well as the wide variety of amazingly realistic vegetarian “meats” for sale at talaat mai, Chinatown’s main market:
It’s hard to see, but above are veggie “shrimp”, veggie “salted fish”, and believe it or not, vegetarian pork intestines!
Continuing along Thanon Yaowarat, Chinatown’s main street, there was lots to see, including people making deliciously crispy peanut snacks:
crepe-like snacks made from a light batter poured through a seive:
and a huge pot of sangkhayaa, egg and coconut milk dipping sauce for paa thong ko, Chinese-style deep-fried dough:
I even came across an entire stall selling an array of northern Thai dishes, all made without meat:
including the famous northern curry kaeng hang lay, which was made with vegetarian pork belly!
I headed over to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, Chinatown’s most sacred temple, and a centre of activity for this festival. There were lots of people in white praying:
and lighting incense:
And there was even food available right at the temple. I ordered my favourite jay dish, yellow noodles fried with veggies:
Which, if you’ll look closely, even included some fresh greens! It was, I felt, an appropriate end to a day spent going veggie.
A few bonus pics can be seen here.