The tradition of the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, referred locally to taetsagan gin pak and more generally as taetsagan gin jay, is a centuries long festival celebrated annually, mainly within areas of strong Thai-Chinese populations. Bangkok's expansive Chinatown, Hat Yai, Trang, and several other areas also participate in the tradition. Phuket is the focal point of this festival, far surpassing other cities and towns in every way possible.
The 2022 Phuket Vegetarian Festival took place from September 25-October 4. In this post I'll share some of the stand out food spots and dishes I enjoyed in 2022 as an indication of what to look out for during the 2023 festival. You can also have a look at my 2017 guide 40 Foods to Try at the Phuket Vegetarian Festival.
I'll reference my favourites from 2022 using two methods: an embedded Google MyMaps with locations pinned as well as more detailed text and photos in the post.
First, some quick housekeeping. Be mindful that despite that jay foods are meant to be devoid of animal products, many places use milk products. For the most part it's obvious what items might contain milk, so don't fret about it being hugely present. Drinks are the obvious place you'll find it (hint: keep an eye out for cans of evaporated and condensed milk at the stalls).
Another tip: if you come across a sushi stall with myriad brightly coloured pieces, avoid it. It's not good.
Please note some map markings for street vendors are ballpark and these vendors may or may not be in the same place in future years.
The street markets associated with the vegetarian festival are typically present around Chinese shrines. This is why I refer to them below by their shrine name, even though the markets are not necessarily inside but on roads surrounding. Many shrines around the penninsula participate, but I've not ventured out to others.
Jui Tui Shrine
From just West of Phuket Town Central Market, on Ranong Rd, all the way up to Patiphat Rd, the street is lined with food stalls on both sides. There are plenty of year round jay restaurants as well, so be sure to pop behind the stalls onto the pavements/sidewalks. Loads of shops back there also turn into makeshift vegan restaurants during the festival. Don't miss Soi Phutorn (the location of the Shrine) for a continuation of the stalls.
There are so many places to eat in this area that you can't come close to trying everything even if you stay for the entire festival. Believe me, I've tried.
This is THE area to be and to eat during the festival. It's absolutely heaving during the night, when no traffic can make it through. In the morning there's traffic, and some festival processions pass down this road. Note there are some stalls that are only open at some times of the day, which means it's a good idea to have a wander in mornings, afternoons, and evenings.
Bang Neow Shrine
There are quite a few stalls along Phuket Rd out front of this shrine. They're obvious to spot, so you won't miss them. There are lots of proper restaurants and cafes along here with vegan menus too, ranging from made to order foods to ready made foods to eat with rice. And more.
Kio Thian Keng Saphan Hin Shrine
Saphan Hin is an important place of ritual in the vegetarian festival. The festival is a dedication to the Nine Emporer Gods (hence you may have also heard the jay festival referred to as the Nine Emporer Gods festival). Without getting into it too much, the manifestations of these gods are believed to both arrive and depart by sea and Saphan Hin is where all of the shrines go to see them off. The last night of the festival arguably makes this the best place to be if you are interested in the cultural significance of the events.
As far as food goes, there's a bit around. It's not as much as you'll find around some other places, but there are a few stall along Soi Bang Yai, nearby Kio Thian Keng Saphan Hin Shrine. Personally I'd eat elsewhere first rather than make this a destination for eating.
Lo Rong Phra Phrom Thada Sathan and Sui Boon Tong Shrines
There are some stalls along Thanon Pattanaa (Pattana Rd ถนนพัฒนา). I've only stopped to buy sweets here, but there are enough stalls that it's worth a wander.
Hawkers & street vendors
O-aew Jao Gao โอ้เอ๋ว เจ้าเก่า
This isn't part of the festival and is a few minutes' walk from Ranong, in downtown Phuket (on Soi Soon Utis), but it's a special local iced dessert you'll struggle to find outside of Phuket. O-aew is a type of jelly made with herbs and banana plants, with very little flavour but a comforting texture. It's refreshing as heck served with ice and snake fruit syrup. Afternoons only.
Kanom pia sot and kanom look tao ขนมเปี๊ยะสด/ขนมลูกเต๋า
There are a lot of vendors who sell these local griddle cooked cakes, but the folks who set up in this alleyway spend their days and nights turning out vast quantities that are sold nearly as quickly as they're made. The whole process happens right here, so you can watch the cooking and then grab a box to take away. I recommend the black sesame filled pastries, but all of the bean based flavours are good as well.
They sell traditional flavours here, but other stalls can be more modern-creative with their fillings.
Yentafo is one of those dishes that's bad when it's bad and great when it's good. Sadly the former is more common than the latter but, holy smokes, this lady make a great bowl. I hope she's there again in 2023.
Tod man khao poht street stall
I don't remember the name of this stall, but the queue is lengthy for good reason. They sell a variety of deep fried items, but their speciality is deep fried corn cakes made to a Southern style recipe with lots of turmeric. It's worth the queue time.
They'll hand you a bowl to select which items you want, and then they'll take it and chop them up. The corn cakes are popular so may not be on the table. In this case you can just request them and stand aside while they're prepared. They'll remember who you are and let you know when your food is ready.
Mala skewer stalls
These tend to be at the beginning of Ranong, near the old market. Point at the vegetable skewers you want and they'll grill it up with spicy mala sauce. They may ask "pet mai?" which means "do you want it spicy?" The seasoning is very spicy but it's also flavoursome as all get out. If you struggle with chilli heat, I say go for it but make sure you've got a cold, sugary drink to hand.
Recommended: corn, mushrooms, okra
Kanom see kaa ขนมสี่ขา
Note: this is not marked on the map. Kanom see kaa is a Phuket local version of Chinese crullers (pathong goh or youtiao), deep fried with crispy sugar on the outside of the dough. There's one dude who's at the festival every year, on the righthand side of the road on Ranong (as you're walking toward Patiphat Rd but before you reach Soi Phutorn on your left (the road Jui Tui Shrine is on). I believe they have at some point maintained a stall in Cham-cha local market, but he's always set up along Ranong during the festival. This is a daytime only stall, so go in the morning. If you're struggling to find it, look for a queue. Get at least 3 pieces and eat them immediately.
2023 update: this is the first year I've not seen him on Ranong in the mornings. There are two other kanom see kaa stalls if you continue up Ranong, cross the intersection, carry on until the produce market, and turn left. The first is fairly close to the corner. The second, better option, is slightly past the car park entrance/exit.
Restaurants & pop ups
Krua Khun Nong ครัวคุณน้อง
Krua Khun Nong isn't a vegan restaurant but for as many years as I've been attending the festival in Phuket they've participated. This is one of my favourite breakfast spots during the festival. Most staff don't speak English (some do) but you can point at what you want.
- หมู้สามชั้น เต้าหู้ยี้ moo sam chan tao hu yee (pork belly braised in a fermented tofu sauce)
- ผัดกะเพรามะเขือยาวหมูสับ pad kaprao makua moo sap (deep fried holy basil with aubergine and pork)
- มบมะเขือ mop makua (stuffed aubergine in red coconut curry)
- แกงมัสมั่น gaeng massaman (tofu and potato curry – one of the nicest versions of massaman I've tried)
- ต้มส้มสับปะรด tom som sapparot (sour soup with pineapple)
Sadly Krua Khun Nong is not offering any vegan menus in 2023 🙁
One Chun Cafe & restaurant วันจันทร์ บ้านอาหารไทย
I went for the first time last year after a friend recommended it, and I loved both items I ordered. It's a nonvegan restaurant but the jay festival menu was sizeable, though it was availabe only in Thai. Google translate will get you close enough.
- ยำผักกูด yam pak gud (fern salad)
- ปลาเจี๋ยนตะไคร้เจ plaa jian takrai (slow fried fish with lemongrass sauce)
Dok Bua veg restaurant ร้านอาหารเจดอกบัว
It's a little off the beaten track, outside of town a bit (and taxis in Phuket are expensive), but it's one of the few veggie places with menus rather than pre-cooked dishes to choose from. There's both indoor and outdoor seasoning.
- ต้มยำโป๊ะแตก tom yam po taek (seafood tom yam)
- ปลาตะใคร้ plaa takrai (fish with sweet tamarind lemongrass sauce)
- สือร้องไห้ sua rong hai, known in English as crying tiger (fried lion's mane mushrooms with spicy Isaan dipping sauce)
Go La Hokkien Fried Noodles หมี่โกลา
This is a popular local spot that isn't typically vegan, but theyve been vegan during the festival in the years I've been. And holy moses, it's worth the trip. In addition to what they're known for, which is Hokkien mee, last year they did the best khao mok gai and mushroom satay I've ever had. You can't go wrong with anything you order here.
Vegan Station-วีแกน สเตชั่น
There are quite a few jay/vegan restaurants along Ranong, but this is a favourite. It's a little less slammed, which I like because it means I can ask questions about the food. The chef is a friendly, humble woman.
- หมูกะทิ + ลูกเหรียง moo gati luk riang (pork and tree bean/parkia timoriana curry). Upper left in photo.
- แกงเห็ดแครง gaeng het kraeng (split gill mushroom curry)
- หมูสามชั้นพะโล้ moo sam chan palo (pork belly with five spice gravy)
- เต้าหู้ชอสมะขาม tao hoo sot makaam (tofu with tamarind sauce)
Kanom jeen inside Phuket Backpacker hostel
Last year an excellent kanom jeen (curry rice noodles with add it yourself toppings) hawker took over the hostel's lobby space, turning it into a makeshift dining space. There's plenty of kanom jeen to go around during the festival, but this was my favourite that I tried last year.
Raan mi nam hokkien go pian ร้านหมี่น้ำฮกเกี้ยนโก้เพียร
Another Hokkien mee spot worth a visit. I like that she includes a slice of lime to cut through the sweetness of the noodles. Noodles come in 3 sizes depending on how hungry you are (say "tammadaa" for regular). The menu is in Thai, but the owner is very friendly (she helpfully went through a whole series of sweets with me, naming and checking my spelling). The Hokkien mee is made with either rice vermicelli or wheat noodles. The bowls contain white fungus, yuba, cabbage, julienned carrot, choi sum, wood ear mushroom, protein/TVP, marrowfat peas from a can, and alkaline noodles.
She also sells pad see ew and rad naa, but I didn't try these.
Other sites of interest
The Phuket Thai Hua Museum not only gives a history of the local area, but also offers explanations about the vegetarian festival and some locals foods as well. I visit this museum every year.
The Surin Circle Clock Tower is a fun place to visit in the evening, when locals descend for photo ops with the overstated lit up display on the roundabout. Youth love to set off fireworks, which is both a draw and a deterrent. Keep your wits about you and mind your surroundings for kids with all sizes of fireworks. It's fun to watch.
As previously mentioned, Saphan Hin beach is a great place to be on the last night of the festival. At least one local shrine also conducts their invitation festival at the sea, at the start of the festival, but I have yet to be around for this.