Vegetarian Food In Thailand Festival

 

Veg Food In Thailand, Vegetarian Festival In Bangkok

Since Bangkok and the rest of Thailand is largely made up of fish and meat eaters, a Thai vegetarian eating house is not easy to find. This does not mean that there is absolutely no vegetarian food available in Bangkok or Thailand, the best way to find a place would be to do a search on your smart phone or tablet. What we are going to talk about in this report is very interesting but, the goodness lasts for less than 15 days each year! 

The triangular yellow flags that you see strung up on the left side of the image announce, the presence of vegetarian food. While some food shops offer Thai veg food throughout the year and display the same flags, the vegetarian festival is a time when you can spot them easily in Bangkok and other places of Thailand. Some very traditional food sellers dress in all white, men sometimes wear a white top and loose yellow trousers but, this this dress trend has almost disappeared in recent years. If you venture out to eat vegetarian Thai and Chinese food during the festival time at Yaowrat, all the food in the earmarked area is vegetarian. You will still find non vegetarian food but generally on a far stretch of the street, well separated from the vegetarian food sellers. The regular restaurants in the area would still serve non vegetarian but probably, add some traditional vegetarian items to their menus.  

A variety of noodles cooked with a range of relishing recipes, all vegetarian. Vegetarian noodle sellers are very prominent during this time, noodles can often make up the main meal of many diners. Interestingly, something like vegetarian fried rice is not easy to find in the Yaowrat area even during the festival. Expect to find the rice in the vegetarian food stalls down the Silom or Sukhumvit area during this time. Remember that the Thai and Chinese vegetarian food festival is celebrated all over Bangkok and Thailand. Yaowrat is an important place in Bangkok for this festival because, it is a predominantly Chinese located and many of the local Chinese still follow Chinese traditions and customs. 

The Bangkok vegetarian festival is celebrated everywhere, you will see the yellow flags announcing the presence of Thai vegetarian food in the shops, footpath vendors and small stalls also join in. The old town of Yaowarat is where the big Thai vegetarian festival mood is most evident. Dozens of stalls sell all types of Thai and Chinese vegetarian food. The vegetarian festival originated as a Chinese festival but, the close association among the Thais and Chinese resulted in the festival being celebrated by the entire population. The Yaowarat vegetarian festival is held along an entire road, expect a section of the road to be closed for traffic during this time. The festival is celebrated for 9 days but, the more established restaurants might extend that to 15 days or even a month. The festival is general held in the month of October or November, exact dates can vary from year to year as the dates are related to the phases of the moon. 

An interesting part of Thai vegetarian food is the preparation of mock meat, composed generally of soy extract or flour, these ingredients appear much like pork, meat and poultry. One of the most interesting variation of this mock meat is, burgers that appear very much like they were made up meat slices and pancakes. Unfortunately, you will not be seeing these in the vegetarian festival as they do not happen to be traditional Thai food items. The above set of mock meat items were on sale at a veg food stall during the Chinese Thai vegetarian festival at Yaowrat. Many of these items are deep fried so you might want to watch your calorie count. 

An entire row of vegetarian food stalls at the veg festival in Yaowrat Bangkok, everything is pure vegetarian and very enticing to the vegetarian visitor. It is easy to overeat as you would find at least 50 to 60 different Thai and Chinese vegetarian food dishes. Don't expect high quality English from the sellers so, let yourself experience a safe adventure. It would be a good idea to make a slow walk through all the veg food stalls and get an idea of what is available, remember some landmark near the stalls that really interest you. Then walk back the same row and pick what you like. If you happen to be living nearby or not very far from the place, you could come back the next day and continue your eating spree !

In general terminology, the term ‘vegetarian’ is interpreted to include some convenient variations! For example, Indian vegetarians would not mind eating dairy products while still claiming to be strictly vegetarian. When we talk about Thai vegetarian food sold during this festival, this is strictly vegetarian and actually excludes a few ingredients that might be termed as ‘vegetarian’ by most of us. Dairy milk is definitely out and soya milk is what people drink and make use of. Vegetarian food sold as part of the Vegetarian festival in Bangkok and indeed throughout Thailand, rules out ice cream made from milk, the Thais have luckily added coconut ice cream to their menus since a very long time. Vegetarian ingredients with pungent smells like garlic, onions and Chinese chives are also kept out of the vegetarian food dishes. 

This vegetarian stall at the Yaowrat veg festival catered to a new trend in eating mushrooms, the thick long variety of mushrooms are sliced vertically and then cooked over an open barbecue stove. Mushrooms are a very popular ingredient in both, Thai and Chinese food but, it is only recently that roasted mushrooms are being sold. A stick is pierced through the sliced mushrooms and the mushrooms are then lined up. Unless you happen to be in a hurry and pick the ready roasted mushrooms, the general practice is for the buyer to choose the mushroom stick of his or her choice and hand it over to the vendor - it is then roasted and coated with a vegetarian sauce. Street vendors in places like Bangkok sell roasted mushrooms all through the year but, it is quite likely that the sauce used is not vegetarian. However eat this dish at the Bangkok vegetarian festival celebrations and rest assured, that this is a completely vegetarian dish. 

This is a very traditional Thai food dish called 'Khao Laam' in Thai, variations do exist but it is generally a type of sweet rice pudding cooked in a piece of bamboo stick. The pudding mixture is pushed into the bamboo from one end, the other end is left closed. The filled bamboos are then roasted for long hours, this cooks the pudding mixture inside. If you observe the left bottom side of the above image, you will notice a few split bamboos showing the pudding inside. Unless you happened to be experienced in doing the task, do not attempt to split the bamboo by yourself you could injure your hands or cut a few fingers. Request the vendor to split the bamboo open for you. The rice pudding in the bamboo, in the food stalls celebrating the Thai vegetarian food festival, is all vegetarian. You don't see much of this food in Bangkok but,  it is sold in the provinces all through the year. The traditional recipe used to make Khao Laam rice pudding does not have any ingredients that you could term as non vegetarian. However Thai cooks have become quite innovative to cater to changing tastes - it is better not to presume that the rice pudding sold during normal times is completely vegetarian. 

One of the vendors selling vegetarian Thai food at the veg festival in Bangkok. Notice the yellow banners hanging from above. These might not seem similar to the traditional yellow flags seen with other Thai veg food vendors but, the word in Chinese does also mean the same thing, that the food is vegetarian. This veg food stall seen at the Yaowarat celebrations, is a bit different from most vendors. Instead of keeping specific food dishes in ready to eat form, the vendor actually makes the veg food dish according to what you order. There is obviously some waiting time involved but, if you do not happen to be very hungry or in a great hurry, the 'custom made' food from this vegetarian food sellers is more likely to suit your taste. 

So what type of Thai vegetarian food dishes can you expect to find during this time. The easiest to find will be Thai vegetarian noodles, many variations of that and cooked with different kinds of noodles. Lots of fried vegetarian foods, watch your calories if you plan to eat big on those days. A recent popular Thai vegetarian snack has recently caught on in Bangkok, the vegetarian food festival has started offering this in recent years – charcoal roasted mushrooms. During normal times, typical Thai sauces are brushed over the roasted mushrooms. A vegetarian sauce is used to do the job during the vegetarian food festival.

Soya is used as an ingredient in many dishes served during this vegetarian festival, processed soya products in the form of nuggets are also common. Thai vegetarian dishes worth noticing and tasting include a range of meat ‘look alikes’. Chicken that is really not chicken, processed pork that is not actually pork and even the famous Thai fish balls with no fish ! Soya is often an important ingredient in these vegetarian ‘meat’ ingredients. One important thing to remember is related to the names of various, Thai vegetarian food dishes that you might come across during the duration of the festival. Many of those dishes might be made throughout the year, with ingredients that are not vegetarian. 

Thai vegetarian food sold during the festival also includes a collection of delicious sweet dishes. Expect to find generous use of sugar, coconut and rice flour in many of them. In the bigger market areas, the well known Thai sticky rice with ripe mango is a regular offering during the festival. A word of advice for those of you who plan to try the sweet dishes after finishing your meal. Many of these are not exactly desserts, they can be quite heavy on the belly. A better idea would be to go a bit light on the main meal and then, look around for those amazing sweet food dishes. 

This vendor has an assortment of traditional That sweetmeats, the good thing is that they are packed to be bought and carried away. The portions in each packet are indeed large, surely much more than even 1 or 2 adults should eat at one sitting. Needless to say that since these sweet dishes were being sold at the Bangkok veg food festival, they are vegetarian. Very few Thai sweets are traditionally made with dairy milk, coconut milk or soy milk (rarely) are more likely to make up the milk component of these Thai vegetarian desserts. While it is true that, many of these sweet desserts sold by these veg food vendors are made in vegetarian form even during normal times, you might want to make double sure if you happen to be a strict vegetarian food eater. 

A traditional sweet dish from Thailand, these colorful 'look choop' as they are known in the Thai language, has its origins in the royal palaces. Green mung beans form the main ingredient in the making of look choop, the colors were originally restricted to natural plant extracts but, commercial food grade colors are used today. The royals and aristocrats had specially trained cooks to make these colorful delicacies for them, the idea was to get the shape of fruits and vegetables and even bring about a similarity in colors. Being above the common man in terms of social status, the royals were served food that not only tasted awesome but also, had an appetizing and attractive appearance. Just as most veg food vendors at the vegetarian festival celebrations, seem to specialize in just one or two types of food dishes, this vendor at the Yaowrat veg food festival market had only look choop to offer. 

Called 'khanom taan' in Thailand, this is one popular Thai sweet dish that seems to moderate a bit on the sugar but, surely nothing to over feast on if, you plan to count your calories or sugar intake. This Thai sweet dish is steamed and consists mainly of rice flour and palm sugar and coconut. Eat a couple of them and you will feel at partially filled in the belly. This traditional Thai sweet dish should be termed vegetarian as, we have never seen it made with any ingredients that would be termed as non vegetarian. The best way to eat Khanom Taan is when it is just taken off the steamer but,  watch out for the high temperatures that it holds during that time. A good snack at any time of the day but, make sure that you do not add on too many calories. 

Hollow scones with a type of chili paste stuffed into it. You take get the scones and chili paste in two separate packets, do the filling work your self and watch the heat - this is really hot with chilies. Modified to be vegetarian during the veg festival but, don't expect the chili paste to be vegetarian during other times. 

Another view of visitors to the vegetarian food festival in Bangkok. Thais being non vegetarians are not very adept to cooking vegetarian food, Thai and Chinese veg food sellers during the festival therefore do brisk business. It is a lot more convenient to buy ready cooked food, you also have access to a variety of dishes. 

Expect to encounter situations where the vendor or food shop is not fluent in English or even, nil as far as the language is concerned. Keep you cool and feast on what is available, all the food is vegetarian so join the fun. It helps to take along someone who can understand and speak Thai, this might be essential if you have an allergy to specific food ingredients. Take photographs by all means but avoid, focusing too close on eaters who have come along to enjoy the festive food. 

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