If you’re a vegetarian or just love vegetarian food now is the best time to be in Thailand. From September 27th to October 5th, 2011, Thais all over Thailand are celebrating the Vegetarian Festival. What that means is, for the next 10 days, most of the food in Thailand will be vegetarian and restaurants that normally prepare meat-based dishes will now prepare mostly vegetarian ones.
For many, it also means food is cheaper as, if a meal at a food stall is prepared with meat and costs 35 baht ($1.16), during the Thai Vegetarian Festival, the same meal will be prepared, but this time with veggies replacing the meat. The result? That similar dish will only cost 25-30 baht (83 cents to $1).
During the 10 days of the Vegetarian Festival Thais are supposed to practice เจ (prounounced ‘Jay’) . This means following eight Buddhist precepts, one of which is eating vegetarian food. Others include keeping the body clean, eating utensils clean and abstaining from having sex or drinking alcohol (although amaller numer of Thais seem to practice the last two anymore).
Even 7-11s in Thailand sell mostly ‘Jay’ food during the Vegetarian Festival and, boy, is it cheap.
I had lunch with a Thai friend at Bon Marche, an upscale market in northern Bangkok, yesterday, and we ate at the outdoor food court. Ninety percent of food being sold was vegetarian, and crowds of people were out enjoying it.
We had spicy pumpkin, Massaman Curry where the beef had been replaced with tofu (delicious), rice and fried corn cakes. I also bought several vegetarian dishes to bring home for dinner, one of which, a mushroom curry, was one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in Thailand. The food I ate for lunch, plus a huge bag of already prepared food I brought home (mushroom curry, spicy pumpkin, rice), that will make me three meals, was only 160 baht ($5.25). Four healthy vegetarian meals for just over 5 bucks. You don’t get much cheaper than that!
So, if you’re in Thailand over the 2011 Vegetarian Festival, although you can get meat at most restaurants, why not forego it for a few days and try the ‘Jay’ instead. It truly is fresh, tasty and, of course, superbly healthy.
To figure out if the restaurant is serving ‘Jay’ food, look for the yellow sign with red writing (see the one on the yellow 7-11 advert at the top of the page). All restaurants serving ‘Jay’ food will have yellow banners up.