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Pattaya Daily News

09 October 2010 :: 18:10:18 pm 43559

Unscrupulous Food Vendors Selling Fake Vegetarian Fare

Despite the need for strict adherence to the guidlines of the Vegetarian Festival, some unscrupulous food vendors are tryiing to pass off meat, fowl and fish as being genuine vegetarian fare. Below are the Vegetarin Festival guidelines and some recommendations to avoid being conned.
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Had this article been about metal, I might have entitled it “all that glisters is not gold”, but it’s actually about people selling fake vegetarian fare and trying to pass it off as the real thing. This is the time of the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand, lasting from 7 to 17 October. A legacy of the Chinese during the ninth lunar month in the Chinese calendar, the festival is one of strict cleansing and adhering to a relatively austere diet and daily habits in order to attain good health and peace of mind. The nine gods are supposed to descend to earth to hold mere mortals to reckoning, according to their good and bad karma.

During these 10 days, the Chinese community (and by extension the rest of the Thais who readily adopt the practices of others, especially when they constitute such a large percentage of the population) are expected to adhere to 10 rules to help improve their lot. Some of these rules include:

· bodily cleanliness

· dressing only in white – a symbol of purity,

· abstaining from eating meat, whether fowl, fish or animals

· not killing animals

· eating vegetables of normal strength and aroma, thus avoiding garlic, onion, spring onion, Chinese chives, Chinese parsley and MSG

· abstaining from alcohol

· attending shrines to make merit and honour the ancestors

Though visitors to Phuket may assume self-mortification and other gruesome practices are the norm nationwide during these 10 days, this is not the case.

Now, as may be surmised, food sellers, at least those of Chinese origin and persuasion, are expected only to serve vegetarian fare; however, there have been reports of some unscrupulous venders actually trying to pass off meat and fish as genuine vegetarian produce. This is not as difficult as it sounds. Those changing from an omnivorous to a vegetarian diet, for instance, often initially eat soya meat-substitute to gently ease them over the transition. So, too, do many food vendors use soya and especially tofu, made from soya bean curd, to replicate meat. These two products can look and even smell surprisingly like meat, so much so that someone like myself, an actual practicing vegetarian, often has to seek verification that the meat substitute is actually that and not meat.

If strong sauces containing chilli or peppers and other spices are used in the cooking process, it should be relatively easy to disguise the true nature of the main ingredient, maintaining this is soya or tofu, as long as it is not a strong meat like beef or aromatic fish such as tuna. Just why unscrupulous vendors should wish to pass off meat as vegetarian produce, though, is relatively puzzling. Obviously they cannot be strict Chinese, and are manifestly going against the spirit of the Vegetarian Festival, contravening at least two if not more of the 10 rules. Perhaps they have a surplus of meat in stock which they wish to get rid of swiftly so as not to make a loss; maybe they can’t cook vegetarian fare and fear losing valuable custom, or perhaps they just have a devilish mentality.

To ensure that the food you are being served is actually vegetarian, these simple practices can be followed:

· Eat only in wats (temples) where selling fake vegetarian food on sacred ground would actually constitute a sin

· Look the vendor in the eye when you ask if the food they are selling is genuinely vegetarian and contains no animal, fish or fowl either in its ingredients or sauces. If the vendor’s eyes flinch, they are probably trying to con you.

· Eat only in establishments which display the small yellow flag with the words “jay” in Thai, meaning vegetarian.

· Eat such foods as the following, which are genuine Thai vegetarian dishes:

Phad mee sue mangsawirat (ผัดหมี่ซั่ว มังสวิรัต) – stir fried yellow noodle (vegetarian).

Pad ma khua yao (ผัดมะเขือยาว) – stir fried egg plant with imitation meat.

Khanom bung sai tua dum (ขนมปังไส้ถั่วดำ)- bread roll with black sesame seed.

Pad prik king (ผัดพริกขิงเจ) – spicy vegetable protein.

Salapao sai tuadum (ซาลาเปาไส้ถั่วดำ) – Chinese steamed buns with black bean

Salapao sai hed (ซาลาเปาไส้เห็ด) – Chinese steamed buns with mushroom.

Reporter : PDN staff   Photo : PDN staff   Category : Society

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