Do you “gin jay?”
Once upon a time, a group of Chinese became sick when visiting Thailand. In order to heal themselves they switched up their diet to a vegetarian code in an attempt to purify their minds and bodies. Not only did they not eat animal products, they were also not permitted to eat a few of the most powerfully pungent vegetables like garlic, onions, and celery.
In the Thai cuisine that is oriented around garlic, herbs, and meaty sensations, this must have been a daunting task…
To this day, the vegetarian festival continues annually, but now, the chefs and their food technology have become a little more advanced in their ways and adapted to a carnivorous searching clientele.
Beyond detoxification, the festival is now a time for cooks throughout Bangkok and especially in Chinese areas (like Yaowarat) to cook food for the masses and demonstrate their abilities to create dishes without the help of animal fats or strong herbs. Lucky for everyone, chilies are not on the forbidden list, nor are (as I discovered) things that “look” like meat!
During the vegetarian festival, Yaowarat (Bangkok’s Chinatown) is filled with wok face-offs for the hordes of hungry eaters.
This brilliant eatery was stalked with an entire market of fresh looking vegetables and in front was what I thought, the normal piles of seafood and meat…or was it meat?
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On closer inspection, it was in fact not meat at all, but rather patties and lumps of “to-meat.” Can you see the fake bacon?
The simple yet popular dish throughout Bangkok of khao man gai (chicken and rice) was frighteningly duplicated by chunks of “something” shaped into chicken breasts and hung by hooks in the normal position that real flesh carcasses would normally hang.
I’m was a little bit disturbed by that khao man gai!
Moving on, I stumbled into a stand serving gai satay (chicken satays) marinated and then dipped into a sweet greasy peanut sauce. At first I thought they might stolen a package of chicken McNuggets straight from McDonalds (those might be vegetarian too).
A quick scorch over open coals and the vegetarian gai satay were ready to be chowed down.
The winner of the evening was a classic Thai dish known as larb, normally made from minced pork, but this time made from a substitute of unknown substance.
Are hot dogs really necessary to be duplicated at the vegetarian festival into fake creations to trick the mind into thinking they are honest to goodness meatiness. Can’t we just forget about hot dogs for the week?
Though it was exciting to see the creativity of fake-meat, I decided to mostly steer clear of the impersonations and stick with the full vegetarian options that are done right!
I began the afternoon with a brilliant plate of stir fried rice noodles topped with water mimosa, mushrooms, and chilies (pad sen mee pak gachet)
A little bit of spicy fruit salad (som tam polomai) minus the fish sauce was excellent!
Peanut brittle and other super sweet thai khanom desserts were also among the tastiest items offered at the vegetarian festival.
“Gin Jay,” vegetarian festival is a unique and amazing time to be in Bangkok. It’s a time to discover unique eats and to enjoy special delicacies. Focusing on vegetables, tofu, and natural ingredients, the vegetarian festival in Bangkok is a delicious experience!
Be careful of that fake-meat!
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