Eating Vegetarian in Thailand

The annual Vegetarian Festival has already started here in Thailand. It happens every year in the tenth Thai lunar month on the first new moon after the equinox. This year it is celebrated between 29th September and 8th October 2008. Most people make the mistake in thinking that this is a festival only celebrated in Phuket. Although it is true that their version is certainly livelier, it is actually celebrated in many places around Thailand wherever there are large Chinese communities. Samut Prakan is no exception. All through the town we have had large yellow banners hung across the roads for the past week. I actually got quite excited about it as for the first time I decided to take part myself. For the past few days I have been preparing myself. It is notthat easy as the Chinese version of “jay” is more vegan than vegetarian as you are not allowed any animal products. So, this not only means fish, but also milk and eggs. Just to complicate it, you cannot eat strong smelling produce such as garlic and onions.

At school, about 15% of our students and teachers have signed up for vegetarian meals. However, not everyone has Chinese ancestors. There are people like myself who are doing it as a kind of purification of the body and mind. Personally I think it is a great form of detox not eating animal products for ten days. I am also going to try and quit coffee and beer as these are a stimulant. However, I am not sure how well I will survive. Some teachers have already admitted to me that they will probably only do it for three days. But, I want to do this properly and I have given it a lot of thought. The first day was relatively easy. I couldn’t have my normal breakfast so I had a kind of breakfast cereal with a non-dairy creamer. This left me hungry after a few hours but luckily lunch at school starts at 11.30 a.m. To keep me going in the morning, I did like the students and had a carton of soy bean milk. Most of the junior students had “tom yum gai” this morning. The vegetarians had a similar dish though instead of chicken they had tofu and mushrooms. The senior students had a noodle dish. Again, the vegetarians had tofu and mushrooms instead of the meat. It wasn’t too exciting but was certainly filling. For a while at least.

For my preparation I went to Big C to see what I could eat. A large section of the supermarket had shelves stacked with food that we can safely eat during the vegetarian festival. It is easy to spot as there are always yellow flags with the word “jay” written in Thai in red letters. In the picture above, you can see some of the things I bought. These include soy bean milk and mama noodles. There were even cup noodles of tom yum with mushrooms and tofu. I also bought plenty of vegetables as I will be doing some cooking myself. For the first time I bought some tofu but I am not sure what to do with it yet! However, after visiting Racha Market in Paknam earlier this evening, I think I will be eating out every night. There were so many stalls with yellow flags and such a variety. It actually made me quite excited to browse what was on offer. Tonight I had a fried noodle with vegetable dish together with some tofu that looked so much like roasted beef and vegetarian spring rolls. I have already planned what I am going to eat tomorrow night. I will be taking some pictures of the food on offer at the market and will be sharing these with you later in the week. I just need to sort out breakfast and then I think I can seriously make it through the ten days. I have also discovered a good vegetarian restaurant around the corner from the school. So, if the school lunch isn’t too exciting then I could go out and grab something nearby.

Click here for part two.

We have a discussion over at about what you can eat during the Vegetarian Festival. I will also be posting there some of the pictures I take every day.

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