PHUKET: Officials are conducting inspections of food stalls taking part in the Phuket Vegetarian Festival following reports that some unscrupulous vendors have been lacing “artificial meat” dishes with real meat products in order to make them more attractive to potential consumers.
“Artificial meat” dishes are a staple among many who take part in the annual 10-day purification ritual, during which any and all meat products are strictly forbidden.
In order to attract customers seeking something more exciting than alfalfa sprouts and carrot sticks, vendors have over the years used tofu and other high-protein vegetable products to create dishes that mimic the texture and taste of authentic meat dishes, albeit with less protein.
Although scoffed at by many “year-round” vegetarians, artificial prawns, hot dogs and even pork rinds are among the many manifestations of tofu that make their annual appearance at Phuket Town’s trademark cultural event.
With hundreds of vendors competing, it perhaps comes as no surprise that a few rotten apples have stooped to using real meat products to get a leg up on the competition.
During an inspection tour of vendors at Bang Neaw Shrine on Tuesday, Phuket Public Health Office chief Sak Tanchaikul said his officers will be making daily inspections in all shrine areas to ensure that all the vegetarian fare is hygienic and free of meat products.
Violators will be immediately closed and prosecuted, he warned.
Thus far, however, no arrests have been reported.
— Warisa Temram & Stephen Fein
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