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Monday, September 26, 2011

Nine Emperor Gods Festival [Kew Ong Yeah Temples and Foodstalls]

The community temple around the vicinity of my home
Nine Emperor Gods Festival [aka 'Kew Ong Yeah' Festival in Hokkien dialect] is observed mostly by Taoists.  This festival falls on the 1st day of the 9th lunar calendar month till the 9th day for a total of  nine days.  During this period of time, the devotees will observe a strict vegetarian diet.  However, not all will follow the full nine days vegetarian diet.  Some will go vegetarian for the last day, last 3 days, last 6 days while some will follow for 10 days.  It all depends on each individual. 
It's celebrated for the spirits of the Nine Gods to descend upon the earth by possessing spirit mediums and putting them in a trance.  Throughout the festival, many rituals such as skewering and fire walking ceremonies are carried out.    On the last day, the Gods are sent off through a procession leading from the temple to the sea on an 'Emperor Boat' accompanied by many other colourful floats and devotees.
In Penang, this festival is celebrated on a grand scale.  For myself, I have been following the 9 days vegetarian diet since I was in primary school.  My grandmother used to encourage us to go vegetarian with her and that is how I got into this practice.  
Since this festival is celebrated on a grand scale by many 'Kew Ong Yeah' temples all over Penang, it is very convenient to buy ready cooked vegetarian food from the vegetarian food outlets or temporary food stalls along the roads nearby the temples.  However, my family prefers home cooked vegetarian dishes which to us are not difficult to prepare.  Moreover, it is also more economical if the whole family is on vegetarian diet.  My family have a separate set of kitchen utensils and crockery to use when preparing the dishes.  Some of the utensils/crockery items are many decades old because we only use it once a year.  Any utensils which have been in contact with meat, fish or anything that has a 'life' cannot be used.  Why, I do not know.  Maybe, the simple reason is just 'religious belief'.
Several of the temporary vegetarian food stalls along the road 



Vegetarian food outlet in the vicinity of the temple


There are numerous vegetarian recipes in my collection but most of the time, I cannot prepare all of them because there are too many for just the 9 days.   Usually, I will select the most preferred and add in some new recipes.  For this year, I will most probably be preparing the following dishes for my family and some friends who are on vegetarian diet.
Here is a list of dishes which I will probably prepare for this year's festival.  I will avoid using the processed food [such as vegetarian chicken, squids, prawns, kidney, ham, sea cucumber and mutton] as ingredients for preparing these dishes.  I may add other recipes depending on the availability of the ingredients.

  1. Vegetarian Acar [Pickled Vegetables] - can prepare ahead
  2. Vegetarian Goose [Siew Ngoh] - can prepare ahead [my nephew's favorite dish]
  3. Braised Dual Mui Choy with Mushroom
  4. Stir Fry Instant Flat Noodles
  5. Pickled Green Vegetables
  6. Simple Chilli Sauce for Noodles
  7. Stir Fry Mixed Coloured Vegetables
  8. Family Style Loh Han Chai
  9. Fried Tofu with Tau Cheong
  10. Vegetarian Style Popiah Chai [Stir Fry Turnip]
  11. Family Style Mixed Vegetable Curry
  12. Vegetarian Stir Fry Rice Vermicelli [Economy Fried Beehoon]
  13. Red Beans Soup
  14. Vegetarian Potato Curry with Tofu Puffs
  15. Sweet and Sour Vegetarian Tau Pau
  16. Eight Treasure Soup
  17. Sesame Oil Ginger Vegetarian Egg
Here are some pictures taken at the oldest Nine Emperor Gods Temple in Penang [Hong Kong Street Tao Boo Keong] which is over 100 years old.

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