It’s that time of year again – the vegetarian festival is upon us. This is the time of year when observant Thais eat only vegetarian food for ten days as a sort of penance for all the suffering that meat-eating causes for the rest of the year. It’s a good idea, if you’re of that mindset, but I usually spend those ten days actively seeking out shops, stalls, and restaurants that don’t have that annoying yellow flag that says jae (เจ), which means vegetarian.
“I’ll just keep walking…”
Don’t get me wrong – I love the hustle and bustle of big Thai festivals and I’ve got nothing against vegetarian food – I quite enjoy non-meat food whenever I have it. But the food that’s commonly served during the Thailand vegetarian festival is not very good – indeed, it’s often very unhealthy. That’s why I propose that we change the name of the festival to: The Deep Fried Starch Festival.
While you can no doubt find healthy dishes if you try – veggies and mushroom noodles and various bean dishes, etc. – it seems that many people overlook that fact that just because something lacks meat does not mean it’s healthy.
Of course, health is not the point of the festival, but still…the majority of food you see is some variation of starch or dough or tofu fried in oil and quite often dipped in sugar.
“No meat but 900 calories per bite? It’s like eating broccoli!”
And let’s not forget the incredible amounts of candy, sugar, syrup, sweetened milk, chocolate, and other confectionery that’s sold on every corner. It’s a real shame because as I said, vegetarian food can be done really well. Have you ever had Indian vegetarian food? It’s divine! Tweeter Neil Shelley summed it up nicely in a response to my tweet:
@BkkGreg so much scope in vegetarian food and yet we are presented with this tasteless slop year after year
— Neil Shelley (@NeilShelley) September 30, 2016
These are great if you enjoy eating moist cardboard and minced bean curds.
So as the masses spend another 2.74% of their year avoiding meat, I suggest we change the name of the festival to reflect that majority of food that you’ll find for sale. It probably won’t catch on, but they can’t say I never pushed for truth in advertising.