Sunday, October 14, 2012

Eat Your Vegetables

Chinese dancers on Yaowarat Road in Bangkok's Chinatown celebrate the start of the Vegetarian Festival, Thailand's nine day celebration of veggie excess.

I went down to Chinatown yesterday to photograph the first day of the Vegetarian Festival, Thailand's version of the Taoist Nine Emperor Gods Festival. 

During the nine days of the festival, adherents wear white, to show that they are abstaining from meat, poultry, seafood and dairy. Restaurants and food stalls participating fly yellow flags with the Thai word "je" written in red, to show that their food is vegan. 

The Vegetarian Festival is celebrated in most of Thailand's Chinese communities. It's marked with special vigor in Phuket, which has a very large Chinese population. Bangkok's Chinatown doesn't see that kind of celebration, it's more of a street food fair featuring, naturally, all meatless and mostly vegan foods. 

Yaowarat Road, the main street in Bangkok's Chinatown, is the epicenter of the Vegetarian Festival. The festival started with a parade of Chinese-Thai clubs celebrating the festival with dragon and lion dances. People made offerings and donations to the clubs as they passed. 

And then it was onto the main event, the food. Stalls lined Yaowarat Rd and people walked from stall to noshing on typical Thai meals like chicken and basil (with tofu filling in for the chicken) or pork satay (with tofu filling in for the pork) or fried fish cakes (with tofu filling in for the fish) or sticky rice and mango (thankfully tofu free). I had sticky rice and mango and some som tam, two of my favorite Thai dishes. Sticky rice and mango is high in carbs and calories - it's not really very healthy. But som tam is just julienned papaya and carrots with lime juice. (Normally there's fish sauce in som tam, but it was left out in honor of the vegetarian nature of the Vegetarian Festival.)  

There are more photos of the Vegetarian Festival in my archive (and like most of the photos in the archive they are available for licensing for editorial use or self fulfillment for prints if you'd like to hang one on the wall.)