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Thursday Mar 30

Vegetarian food

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Vegetarian food

jehKnown in Thai as mung-sa-wi-rat, it is practiced by most Thais from time to time, sometimes as a way to cleanse the body after a long period of feeling unwell, sometimes simply in order to improve one’s Karma. Thais of Chinese descent will often take things further, practicing something closer to veganism, and eating no animal products. This is known as gin jay. They also avoid eating plants such as onions and garlic, partly because the eating of these requires the plants to be uprooted and therefore killed.

Although very few Thais are vegetarian, it's usually possible to persuade cooks to rustle up a vegetable only fried rice or noodle dish, though in more out of the way places that's often your only option unless you eat fish. So, you'll need to supplement your diet with nuts, barbecued sweetcorn, fruit and other non-meaty goodies sold bu food stalls. In tourist spots, vegetarians can happily splurge on specially concocted Thai and Western veggie dishes, and some restaurants will come up with a completely separate menu if requested.

vegetarian_restuarantIf you're vegan (jeh) you'll need to stress when you order that you don't want egg, as they get used a lot cheese and other dairy produce, however, don't feature at all in Thai cuisine. Many towns will have one or more vegan restaurants (raan ahaan jeh), which are usually run by members of a temple or Buddhist sect and operate from unadorned premises off the main streets; because strict Buddhist prefer not to eat late in the day, most of the restaurants open early, at around 6 or 7 am and close by 7 or 8 pm. Very few of these places have an English-language sign, but they all display the Thai character for vegan, a ''jeh'' (a little like the letter ''q'' with an elongated arching tail that curves over its head to the left), in yellow on a red background.

Nor is there ever a menu: customers simply choose from the trays of veggie stir-fries and curries, nearly all of them made with soya products, that are laid out canteen-stlye. Most places charge 30-35 Baht for a couple pf helpings served over a plate of brown rice.

vegetarian_foodThere are, of course, many, many vegetables to choose from. In general Thai people consume more fruit and vegetables than meat. When it comes to ingredients for Thai cuisine, the variety is also huge - soy sauces, soy bean paste, tofu, fresh chilli and chilli powder, garlic, lemon grass, coconut milk, mushrooms, galangal (or kha, a relative of ginger), coriander, red onions, kaffir lime and lemon grass.

Many of these ingredients are not only delicious but also have medicinal properties. Here are some examples:

  • Chilies are believed by many people to help normalise blood pressure and blood flow in the body.
  • Chilies also contain significant amounts of magnesium.
  • Galangal acts as a stimulant and is believed to have aphrodisiac properties.
  • Sweet and sour fried tofu.
  • The juice of kaffir lime is good for promoting healthy gums and is recommended for use when brushing one’s teeth.
  • The rind is believed to be good for the blood and is used as an ingredient in medical tonics.
  • Lemon grass and galangal, are known to be beneficial for the digestive system.
  • Krapao (Thai basil) is a good source of Vitamin C, iron, calcium and phosphorus. It is also believed to improve the eyesight.

Some studies shows that a vegetarian diet combined with exercise can make a person healthier than if they eat meat. A vegetarian diet may also reduce the risks of contracting conditions such as heart disease, kidney stones, lung cancer, and breast cancer.

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