Hail to the Nine Emperor Gods!!
It’s that time of the year again when many people in Thailand would honour the Nine Emperor Gods by not eating meat for 9 days. It is also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. While this may be the origin of what is now known as The Vegetarian Festival, many non-local people didn’t know about it. The first time I encounter it in Chiang Mai two years ago, was on the day before I was going for a Vipassana meditation course in Lamphun. I had to pass through the Chiang Mai city to run an errand in a shopping mall. By the time I was done, I was so hungry and I didn’t think that there would be any vegan food in the mall. But to my surprise, there was a big pop-up stall at the food court selling specifically vegan food.
In Thailand, vegan food can be identified by this word ‘jheh‘, which in Thai means vegan.
I was so happy, and relieved. I bought a noodle dish and some really delicious looking spring rolls.
As it was the first year I’ve relocated to Thailand, and my first time in that mall, I was curious if vegan stall like this is only in that mall. So I ask if my eating neighbour, a farang (caucasian), if he knows anything about it. Apparently, it is the first day of the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand and there are many vegan and vegetarian food all over Thailand in these 10 days. Yes, 10 days, not 9. I asked why is this a special 10 days, and he said it’s just a Vegetarian Festival that the Thai celebrates. Unlike many of the local Thais, he eats vegan everyday. I thought it is cool that there is such a festival lasting 10 days in Thailand and that many Thais who are not usually vegan or vegetarian, would actually abstain from eating animal-product during this time.
With the momentum gaining on the urgent conversations and actions required about the climate crisis, I thought, what a difference it could make too if this festival is celebrated throughout the world (except for places where there is no easy food choice access.) and that everyone, not just those honouring the Nine Emperor Gods, would stop eating meat too.
The dates for the festival varies on the Gregorian calendar from year to year as it follows the Lunar calendar. This year, it happens to be from September 28 to October 7.
Starting tomorrow, there will be many stalls who are not usually serving vegan food, offering vegan meals.
At the Garden of L.E.A.H., we hold a plant-based kitchen for many reasons. One of the most enjoyable part of being here is the space to create many kinds of plant-based meals using largely locally available ingredients. Since we have many participants from different parts of the world, we often learn about the original cuisine from each culture and adapt it using local ingredients.
In the past year, we have experimented with many different interesting recipes from the local Thai Lanna, Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Malaysia, Poland, Singapore, U.K., U.S.A., Vietnam, Yunnan etc. This upcoming 9 days, in conjunction with the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand, I will recreate some of our favourites and share some of these recipes here.
Stay tune and enjoy!
Text by Vivian Lee, initiator & activator of the Garden of L.E.A.H..