Vegetarian Festival in Thailand

Food in Chiang Mai during Vegetarian Festival.

Food in Chiang Mai during Vegetarian Festival.

The Thais who have Thai-Chinese ancestors celebrate Vegetarian Festival in every September-October. It is a bit weird that the whole festival is named Vegetarian Festival (tesagan gin jay in Thai), because it involves so much more than food.

Fried patties.

Fried patties.

I´m not going to try explain the whole religious origins of this event because there are many different interpretations of them and because the explanation would be long, complex and I´m not even familiar with all that confusing stuff.

Jay food

List of special jay food in 7-Eleven shop during Vegetarian Festival.

List of special jay food in 7-Eleven shop during Vegetarian Festival.

The food during Vegetarian Festival should be vegan, though you can not be sure if all the sellers know it exactly. Some people think the word jay means vegetarian food that can include milk and eggs, but some people say it is pure vegan diet. Well, at least in 7-Eleven shops they sell vegan versions of some of them pastries that would otherwise include milk and egss.

Jay food has some other principles than being just vegan or vegetarian. Jay food should not include garlic or different onions and neither be too spicy. In Thai jay vegetarian restaurants I´ve noticed that the food is sometimes a bit bland, but I haven´t paid attention to it being onion free.

vegenmakkaroiden myyjäThe Sino-Thais seem to be very entrepreneurial people and during Vegetarian Festival there are numerous jay food stalls. In Bangkok I found them expecially in the Chinatown (Yaowarat) and especially in Talat Noi area there. In Chiang Mai I found them at the Thapae Gate.

The Festival has become something that looks a lot like food carnival because Thais love to celebrate and eat. The food stalls during the Festival include the familiar dishes that can be found in the usual jay restaurants in Thailand: curry sauces, fried vegetables, noodle soups and mock meats. But there were especially many stalls selling deep fried food: dumplings, gyozas, spring rolls and tempuras. Maybe that is because all that cooking oil makes the otherwise bland food tasty and maybe it tells about the Chinese origins of the festival.

Other things than food during the festival

A stall selling white clothes.

A stall selling white clothes.

The attendants of the Festival dress in white, wash themselves properly, do not have sex, do not swear and, of course, eat only jay food.

Because this is a Thai religious celebration you might think that there would be chanting monks dressed  in orange. However, this is not the case, because these is not a Buddhist festival. Instead of buddhist wats people gather in Chinese temples.

Chinese opera in Bangkok Chinatown during Vegetarian Festival.

Chinese opera in Bangkok Chinatown during Vegetarian Festival.

A woman praying and lighting a candle.

A woman praying and lighting a candle.

nainen kastaa tikkuja öljyyn

This delicacy made of peanuts, sugar and vegetable oil seems to be a staple candy during the Festival.

This delicacy made of peanuts, sugar and vegetable oil seems to be a staple candy during the Festival.

Men hammering the peanut sweet.

Men hammering the peanut sweet.

A vegan curry stall.

A vegan curry stall.

Vegan curry pastes on sale. Usually curry pastes contain shrimp paste and/or fish sauce.

Vegan curry pastes on sale. Usually curry pastes contain shrimp paste and/or fish sauce.

Food from a curry stall. Portion like this costs usually 35-50 Baht depending how many sauce you have with your rice.

Food from a curry stall. Portion like this costs usually 35-50 Baht depending how many sauce you have with your rice.

Gyozas.

Gyozas.

Tempura vegetables.

Tempura vegetables.

These yellow-red flags indicate jay food stalls.

These yellow-red flags indicate jay food stalls.

Mock meats.

Mock meats.

Meat mocking konnyaku balls.

Meat mocking konnyaku balls.

A noodle soup.

A noodle soup.

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