The history of “Vegetarianism” in Thailand
Priests and Buddhists of Mahayana Buddhism consume vegetarian food, which is meat-free and differs from vegetarian food in many respects. Vegetarian food in Thailand would be commonly called in Thai “Ahan Jay “ ( Jay Food ).
Jay = Vegetarian
The word “Jay” is derived from the Chinese word “jai”, which is a picture of Chinese characters written in red, which is the color of auspiciousness. In Mahayana Buddhist Chinese, Jai means “temple“. It originally meant “eating before noon.”
According to the example of Buddhists who keep the temple precepts or keep the 8 precepts not to eat after noon. The treatment of the temple includes not eating meat, so we prefer to call it non-eating of meat along with vegetarianism. At present, those who eat all 3 meals but do not eat meat are still called “vegetarians”, so the definition of vegetarians is not only not eating meat, but also having to live in good morals.
“Vegetarianism” according to the Royal Academy Dictionary B.E. 2525 means fasting like Yuan and Chinese that do not eat fresh and savory things. Instead, they consume vegetables that do not contain fresh savory ingredients, which derives from the Chinese root word “celery” means eating vegetable food.
Foods that come from natural vegetables, do not contain meat, and do not cook with 5 types of pungent vegetables such as garlic, onion, etc. Lakkyo, Gui Chai, tobacco leaves and abstain from fresh milk, condensed milk as well, because it is considered fresh and fishy.
The Differences between vegetarian in Thailand (Jay Food) and General Vegetarian
Jay food and vegetarianism share the commonality of abstaining from meat and seafood. However, there are some differences between the two:
1.Exclusion of Animal By-Products:
While both Jay food and vegetarianism avoid meat and seafood, Jay food takes it a step further by also excluding animal by-products such as eggs and dairy. Vegetarians, on the other hand, may consume eggs, dairy products, and other animal-derived ingredients.
Jay food typically avoids certain pungent vegetables like garlic and onions, which are commonly included in vegetarian dishes. This exclusion is based on the belief that these vegetables may stimulate desire and disrupt meditation practices during religious occasions.
3.Religious and Cultural Significance:
Jay food is closely associated with the Vegetarian Festival and is practiced primarily by Thai-Chinese communities during specific religious events. It holds religious and cultural significance and is observed as part of a spiritual practice. Vegetarianism, on the other hand, is a broader dietary choice that can be influenced by personal beliefs, health reasons, environmental concerns, or ethical considerations.
4.Mock Meat and Seafood Substitutes:
Jay food often incorporates mock meat and seafood alternatives made from plant-based ingredients to mimic the taste and texture of animal-based products. These substitutes are common in Jay cuisine and serve as a way to replicate familiar flavors. While some vegetarians may enjoy meat substitutes, they are not a defining feature of vegetarianism as a whole.
5.Variations in Practice:
Vegetarianism encompasses a wide range of dietary practices, allowing for individual preferences and choices. Some vegetarians may follow stricter forms, such as lacto-vegetarian (including dairy) or ovo-vegetarian (including eggs), while others may choose to be vegan, avoiding all animal products. Jay food, on the other hand, is more specific and adheres to the dietary restrictions observed during the Vegetarian Festival.
It’s important to note that while Jay food is specific to Thai-Chinese culture and religious events, vegetarianism is a global dietary choice with variations in practice across different cultures and individuals. Both Jay food and vegetarianism offer options for those seeking plant-based diets, but the motivations, cultural context, and specific dietary restrictions may differ between the two
Get to know Vegetarian Festival in Thailand
On the new moon of the 1th month (according to the Chinese calendar) Every year, you see yellow flags with Chinese characters adorned in restaurants This coming month will be held big celebration in Thailand so called “Prapanee KinJay” or vegetarian festival. In 2023, the vegetarian festival holds during 15-23 October . The celebration will be nationwide.
Why to celebrate? And How to celebrate?
The festival is a religious event originated from China. The idea of this festival is to purity their mind by doing good and avoid bad. Furthermore, during the vegetarian festival, they will stop eat some strong smell vegetarian, which including garlic, spring onion, Garlic chives, and tobacco. They belief this kind vegetation will create sexual desire and it will be obstructed merit making process during the festival.
Some old people they will stay overnight at Rong Jay or Chinese shine for chanting and meditation and be away from anything that may cause bad karma during that time.
What vegetarians cannot eat?
Vegetarians are prohibited from smoking because cigarettes contain tobacco leaves. Biochemically, it is considered to contain nicotine that stimulates brain activity to cause appetite. Stimulating taste buds may reduce the elemental energy from vegetarian foods ingested.
In addition to the 5 vegetables mentioned above, whole milk, condensed milk and butter are also considered fresh and savory items derived from meat. Therefore, soy milk, corn milk and sesame milk are recommended instead of cow’s milk.
This vegetarian must abstain not only from vegetables that have a pungent smell, but must also abstain from alcohol, intoxication, keep the 5 precepts, as well as not speak sneaky and delirious, which is a precept that must be omitted throughout the vegetarian festival.
Nowadays, there are vegetarian dishes that mimic the appearance of common dishes such as vegetarian larb, stir-fried agricultural protein with curry pepper, vegetarian sour curry, etc., causing controversy about whether the appearance cannot be omitted, it will be considered vegetarian cracked or not. Usually, restaurants that sell vegetarian food do not add vegetables that are not popular in vegetarianism. If it is made from raw materials that do not contradict the principle of vegetarianism, it is not considered a broken “ J” or vegetarian.
Why eating vegetarian and What is the purpose of eating vegetarian?
- Eat healthy because vegetarian food is homeopathic food. When eaten consecutively, it balances the body, can remove various toxins from the body and stabilize various systems in the body.
2. Eat with kindness, since every day the food we eat consists of the flesh and blood of all beings. Those who have good hearts cannot eat the flesh of those animals.
3. Eat to abstain from karma, because killing other people’s flesh and blood is ours creating karma, because buying someone else equals hiring a killer. If no one eats, no one kills to sell. Those who understand the law of karma stop eating and turn to vegetarianism instead. Without selfishness to taste in a short period of time, just feed through the tongue.
Yellow flag in front of the restaurants
Any restaurants have a yellow flag in front of their shops means they serve vegetarian food. You could enjoy eating the meal which is proper for the celebration. The main ingredient of vegetarian food consists of TVP or textured vegetable protein, which has been used as substitute of real meat. There are also meals with flour base. Therefore, it may not be a good time for a diet.
The vegetarian flag is not only a symbol of vegetarian food, but also a reminder to Buddhists who practice vegetarianism to be aware of not encroaching on animal life and to stay in the precepts throughout the vegetarian period.
During the vegetarian festival, we will notice the festival flag with the flag in yellow, which is a color that is only allowed to be used by 2 groups of people, namely kings, royalty and demon masters, as can be seen from the yellow talisman according to Chinese movies. The reason why red is used is because the Chinese believe that it is an auspicious color.
Where to celebrate?
This festival is celebrated nationwide. People can practice and change their routine at home or go away from home to stay at Chinese shine or Rong Jay. Rong Jay is located in the area with a lot of Chinese people such as Nakorn Prathom , Bangkok Chinatown, Ratchaburi province and Chonburi province for an instant.
Big event and participation
Bangkok Chinatown is a good place to find vegetarian food and visiting Chinese shine to pray and chanting for Chinese Goddess and Lord Buddha.
Phuket is a major tourist attraction. Phuket is a province that holds a great vegetarian tradition every year . They have a celebration parade, which is quite extremely scary for this sacred ritual. It is about welcoming GODs spirits and chasing off bad one away. There is a medium who can do scary thing such as put sharp big needle into their tongue. Some event puts a knife into two sides of their cheek.
Another place which famous festival are also Nakorn Sawan, Trung and Samoot songkam province.
Do and Don’t
During the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand, there are certain practices and customs that participants generally follow. Here are some common do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
1.Follow a vegetarian diet: During the festival, it is customary to refrain from consuming meat, poultry, seafood, and even certain strong-smelling vegetables like garlic and onions. Embrace the vegetarian lifestyle during this period.
2.Dress appropriately: Wear modest and respectful clothing when attending the festival. Avoid revealing or inappropriate attire, as the festival has a religious and cultural significance.
3.Observe cleanliness: Cleanliness is considered important during the festival. Wash your hands before participating in any rituals or handling offerings.
4.Respect the customs: Show respect for the religious practices and customs associated with the festival. Observe and follow the rituals, ceremonies, and processions with reverence.
5.Enjoy the cultural performances: The Vegetarian Festival is not only about abstaining from meat but also a celebration of Thai culture. Enjoy the various cultural performances, parades, and street shows that take place during the festival.
1.Do not consume meat or animal products: As part of the festival’s tradition, it is important to strictly avoid eating any kind of meat, poultry, seafood, or animal by-products during this period.
2.Avoid strong-smelling foods: Certain strong-smelling vegetables like garlic and onions are avoided during the festival. It is best to refrain from consuming these ingredients out of respect for the customs.
3.Do not disturb or mock participants: While attending the festival, it is important to be respectful towards participants and their beliefs. Refrain from mocking or disturbing those involved in the rituals or ceremonies.
4.Do not wear revealing or disrespectful clothing: Dress modestly and avoid wearing revealing or disrespectful attire, as it may be considered offensive to the participants and the culture.
5.Avoid wastage: Be mindful of not wasting food or resources during the festival. Consume only what you need and appreciate the significance of the vegetarian lifestyle.
It’s important to note that these guidelines may vary slightly depending on the specific traditions and customs of the Vegetarian Festival in different regions of Thailand. It’s always advisable to respect and follow the local customs and instructions provided during the festival.
Where to witness events or try Vegetarian food for visitors?
Phuketis a top recommend place to join the celebration during the vegetarian Festival. It was a ritual since 170 years ago. You could visit some Chinese Shine. During the festival, various Chinese shrines and temples participate by organizing processions through the streets of Phuket Town and other parts of the island. These parades showcase a rich display of cultural elements, including colorful costumes, traditional music, and striking performances.
If you are in Bangkok, you should visit Chinatown in the evening if you like lots of good vegetable food. Taste some Thai cooking in Chinese style which is very yummy.
Mah Song Procession
Devotees known as “Mah Song” play a significant role in the parade. These individuals undergo ritualistic preparations and are believed to be possessed by the spirits of deities. They often pierce their bodies with various objects, such as swords, skewers, or other sharp implements, as an act of spiritual devotion.
Elaborately decorated carriages or floats carry statues of deities through the streets. These statues, often representing gods and goddesses from Chinese mythology, are adorned with vibrant colors, intricate details, and ornate designs. The carriages are accompanied by devotees who help transport and safeguard the statues.
Firecrackers and Fireworks:
Firecrackers and fireworks are commonly set off during the parade, adding to the festive atmosphere and believed to ward off evil spirits.
Lion and Dragon Dances
Traditional lion and dragon dances are performed during the parade, symbolizing good luck and fortune. Dancers skillfully maneuver large lion and dragon puppets, captivating the crowds with their lively and acrobatic performances.
Here are main Chinese Shines in Phuket where they will have a parade of God images during the festival ;
Kongnaka Shine ศาลเจ้าจ้อสู่ก้งนาคา
Sapam Shrine ศาลเจ้าสะปำ
Samkong Shrine ศาลเจ้าสามกอง
Ban Tha Rve Shrine ศาลเจ้าบ้านท่าเรือ
Bang Neow Shrine ศาลเจ้าบางเหนียว Jui Tui Shrine ศาลเจ้าจุ้ยตุ่ย
Kathu Shrine ศาลเจ้ากะทู้ Yokkekeng Shrine ศาลเจ้ายกเค่เก้ง (ซอยพะเนียง)
Sui Boon Tong Shrine ศาลเจ้าซุ่ยบุ่นต๋อง
The Vegetarian Festival in Phuket is known for its dynamic and visually stunning parades that attract both locals and tourists. To get accurate and detailed information about the parade schedule, routes, and specific highlights for the upcoming Vegetarian Festival, it is advisable to consult local sources, your tour guide, official websites, or contact the local authorities or tourist information centers in Phuket closer to the festival dates. They will have the most up-to-date information regarding the parade of the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, Thailand.
Fun Tour for Jay Food in Thailand
During Jay Food Festival in Thailand , if you are apparently come to visit Thailand or planned to visit. You want to try Jay Food , you can do it everywhere at main cities around Thailand. Even though , you are not a vegetarian but there is no contraindication for you to try Jay Food.
Exploring the diverse and delicious Jay food options in Thailand can be a delightful experience. Here are some suggestions for a fun food tour focused on Jay cuisine:
Bangkok’s Chinatown (Yaowarat):
Start your Jay food tour in Bangkok’s vibrant Chinatown, known as Yaowarat. Explore the bustling streets and visit vegetarian and vegan restaurants, food stalls, and markets. Sample a variety of Jay dishes like stir-fried vegetables, mock meat specialties, flavorful soups, and delectable dim sum.
Phuket Old Town
Head to Phuket Old Town, where you’ll find a blend of Thai and Chinese influences in its architecture and cuisine. Explore the local Jay food scene by visiting vegetarian restaurants and street food stalls. Try dishes like noodle soups, vegetarian versions of local specialties, and creative Jay desserts.
Chiang Mai’s Nimmanhaemin Road
Nimmanhaemin Road in Chiang Mai is a trendy area with a thriving vegetarian and vegan food scene. Explore the numerous hip cafes, health-conscious eateries, and vegetarian restaurants in the vicinity. Indulge in plant-based burgers, vegan sushi, raw food options, and innovative Jay desserts.
Ayutthaya Night Market
If you’re visiting the ancient city of Ayutthaya, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the night market. Look for stalls offering Jay food options, such as vegetarian spring rolls, noodle dishes, and refreshing fruit smoothies.
Pattaya Vegetarian Festival
If your visit coincides with the Vegetarian Festival, head to Pattaya, where the festival is celebrated with great fervor. Explore the festival’s street food stalls, where you’ll find an array of Jay food options like deep-fried snacks, noodle dishes, and flavorful curries.
Khon Kaen’s Bang Lam Phu Market
if you go to North-eastern part of Thailand or E-san like Khon Kaen province , you can go to visit Bang Lam Phu Market to try Jay Food. Another spot, you can go Rong Jay Hock Siang Tueng , Langmuang Road, Khon Kaen Municipality, the staff and the students of the Rong Jay will decorate the place with lanterns for all visitors.
However, Prapanee Kinjay is celebrated nationwide. It doesn’t matter where you go in Thailand. You will be able to find Jay Food easily. You can just look for the yellow flag to indicate they sell Jay Food there.
Remember to communicate your dietary preferences clearly to ensure that the food you consume is prepared according to Jay principles. It’s also helpful to do some research beforehand, read reviews, and seek recommendations from locals or online platforms dedicated to vegetarian and vegan dining in Thailand.
Enjoy your Jay food adventure and savor the delicious flavors of Thai vegetarian cuisine!