PANDEMIC notwithstanding, a plethora of vegetarian delights await devotees who observe vegetarian diet during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Penang.
This is the time when anyone can sample vegeburgers made with vegetarian patties, non-dairy cheese and egg-less mayonnaise, and a wide range of other meatless dishes that taste just as good as the usual ones.
To prevent the spread of Covid-19 while devotees partake in a delightful vegetarian fare, many sellers are even offering delivery services.
Trader Ooi Ewe Jin, 45, will start delivering vegetarian meals to costumers on the island’s Batu Lanchang area.
“We will not charge extra for the service.
“I have several friends at the temple who have offered to help me deliver and I will pay them a bit of money as a token of appreciation,” he said.
He will still be selling vegetarian dishes from his temporary roadside stall in Perak Road for 10 days during the festival.
“I have been selling vegetarian burgers, fried meehoon, curry noodles, pao, dumplings and economy rice for the festival since 1997.
“My mother taught us the recipe and started the business.
“My older sister and I will cook the dishes while another sister will make dumplings.
“My stall is usually open from 7.30am to 11pm,” he said.
As for economy rice dishes, Ooi’s stall has more than 100 varieties for customers to choose from.
“I have a tradition of adding three to four new dishes for economy rice every year. There were only 40 dishes when I first started.
“Since I am of Peranakan descent, I am thinking of creating some of our specialties this year,” he said.
Ooi said he will ensure that all standard operating procedures are strictly followed at his roadside stall.
“We will hire Rela personnel to control the crowd and we will ensure that there is only one entry and one exit,” he said.
A canteen operator who wished to be known only as Phuah, 43, he said he had not decided on offering delivery services.
“I have been selling vegetarian burgers for the past six years during Nine Emperor Gods Festival.
“If the response is good, I will hire an extra worker to deliver the burgers within a 5km radius.
“My business dropped by at least 60% last year. Maybe if I offer delivery, we can lure more customers.
“My stall will open from 8am to 10pm and my customers always come back for our ‘special’ vegetarian burger,” he said.
For this festival, also known as Kew Ong Yeah in Penang Hokkien, dining-in at the temporary roadside stalls in Penang is still a no-no. Only takeaways are permitted.
This year’s festival begins today and ends on Oct 14.
It is held on the first day of the ninth lunar month and is observed with much reverence by the Taoist community.
Many devotees observe a vegetarian diet a day earlier to cleanse themselves. Some also observe sexual abstinence and guard their tongue against foul language.