NB: the 1560 (2017) festival on Yaowarat was toned down significantly in comparison to previous years due to the extended mourning of Bhumibol Adulyadej, the late king of Thailand. In 2018 the festival is expected to return to its former grand scale event.
Last week I published a list of 40 vegan Thai foods to try at the Phuket vegetarian festival, and here is a shorter follow up of 15 vegan street foods in Bangkok during the same period.
Many of these dishes will also be found across the country, at least in areas where it is widely celebrated, during the Thailand vegetarian festival. Some are available all the time, which especially is especially the case with kanom Thai, or Thai sweets.
1. Mee Krob (หมี่กรอบ) – Crispy sweet noodles
When made poorly, mee krob can be cloyingly sweet, but when balanced with the right amount of acidity it’s a moorish snack. Common on restaurant menus outside of Thailand, you will find vegan versions pre-packaged in markets and at jay hawker stalls around Bangkok during the vegetarian festival.
2. Roti Sai Mai (โรตีสายไหม) – Thai candy floss roti
This is a treat that hails from Ayuthaya, North of Bangkok (a worthwhile day trip if you have the time), made into silky strands by hand pulling sugar. The candy floss is then wrapped in roti and eaten like a candy burrito. A must try.
3. Chinese dragon’s beard candy
You will find this Chinese cotton candy in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Watch hawkers with the upper arm strength of gymnasts pull candy into a doughnut shape and continue to pull it wider and wider, halving it over on itself and dunking it in sticky rice flour, until it pulls into candy floss. This is not dissimilar to Turkish cotton candy. The pulled sugar is transformed into a pillow with sticky-sweet peanut, coconut, and sesame filling.
4. Kanom Buang (ขนม
เบื้อง) – Thai crispy crepe tacos
You don’t often find these vegan, so if you spot them then snap them up while you can! Typically they are filled with a meringue-like stuffing and golden egg yolk sweets, but during the Thailand vegetarian festival you may be lucky enough to find some that aren’t. Fillings are sweet or savoury; both utilise coconut but the savoury version tends to be more salty and, if you’re lucky, packed with white pepper too. Toppings are added on the cooking griddle before they are folded and sold like little tacos.
5. Khanom kai nok krata (ขนมไข่นกกระทา) – Fried sweet potato balls
Crispy on the outside, doughy and soft on the inside, you will find these all over the place. I’ve even heard rumours of purple sweet potato variants. P.S. you can check out my recipe for these Thai sweet potato balls if you want.
6. Chao kuai (เฉาก๊วย) – Thai black/grass jelly
Chao kuai is made by boiling stems and leaves from the Chinese mesona plant after first leaving them to dry and oxidise in the sun. Starch and an alkaline substance are used to achieve the firm but chewy texture. The jelly is typically served cubed and topped with brown sugar, or alongside other Thai sweets that are meant to be eaten chilled.
7. Nam kaeng sai (น้ำแข็งใส) – Mixed iced desserts
Nam kaeng sai is a mixed ice dessert comprised of various sweets in an iced sweet coconut soup, and there is little more refreshing than a cold bowl of this on a hot day. Candied cassava, sweetcorn, tub tim grop, fruits, lotus, water chestnuts, beans, and myriad other options exist. Seriously, some places have more than a couple dozen. If you don’t know what to choose, just point at one and shrug and maybe the vendor will choose for you. I like a mixture of tub tim grop and salim, which is a mung bean starch noodle as seen in the photo.
8. Kanom dok jok (ขนมดอกจอก) – Fried lotus blossom biscuit
Made from a runny batter of various flours, coconut milk, black and white sesame seeds, these cookies are deep fried using a brass mould. Then, while still hot, they are shaken from the mould and and draped over a rounded surface in order to ‘blossom.’ These can contain egg, so if you see them during the Thailand vegetarian festival that’s the time to grab them.
9. Sa Koo (สาคูเจ) – Tapioca pearl balls
Typically made with a pork filling, vegan versions utilise preserved turnip and/or shiitake mushrooms as a replacement. A sticky filling is made by stir-frying the turnip or mushroom with sugar and once cooled it is then wrapped in soaked tapioca pearls and steamed. Accompaniments include fiery bird’s eye chilies, lettuce, and coriander. Non vegan versions would be served with crispy garlic.
10. Kanom pun klib (ขนมปั้นขลิบ) – Curry puffs
These are simple savoury pastry snacks with a curried filling. There are a few vendors in Bangkok during teetsagaan gin jay, but I have also seen vegan versions at markets outside of the vegetarian festival too.
11. Khao Lam (ข้าวหลาม) – Sweet sticky rice in bamboo
Made with both white and black sticky rice, khao lam is an underrated street snack made by stuffing bamboo tubes with sticky rice, sugar, coconut milk, beans, and a little salt. The cylinders are then steamed until the rice is fully cooked and partly caramelised. Buy one and the vendor will give it a whack so you can easily open it to eat. The top part is sweeter than the end bit.
12. Lot Chong (ลอดช่อง)
Also known as cendol/chendol in some other Southeast Asian countries, lot chong are rice flour and starch based short noodles flavoured and coloured with pandanus leaves. They are bland in flavour, but the combined texture with palm sugar sweetened coconut milk is heavenly. They can taste eggy due to the addition of alkaline lime paste water.
13. Kanom tan (ขนมตาล) – Toddy palm cake
This is a steamed cake made from toddy palm fruit, coconut milk, and rice flour. The old fashioned method of preparation involves leaving the natural yeasts to multiply during a brief fermentation period, but you can cheat and use leavening agents too. You can sometimes find these frozen in the UK.
14. Naem jay (แหนมเจ) – Vegan fermented sausage
There are several variations on fermented sausages in Thailand, but this particular one is one of my favourite commercially made vegan sausage products. Keep your eyes open for it during the festival and at jay restaurants outside of the festival too. You may also find it being used to make salads and other dishes.
15. Naem het (แหนมเห็ด) – Fermented mushroom sausage
Nearly every mock meat, including the sausages above, that you see in Thailand are commercially made products. But not naem het, or the mushroom version of these fermented sausages. You can sometimes find them in sausage shapes, wrapped in little plastic baggies, but during the Bangkok vegetarian festival you will most often find them wrapped in bite-sized pyramid shaped baggies. Be careful of the bird’s eye chilli in the centre of each one! By the way, here is my recipe for naem het.