九皇爷诞吃斋 Going Vegetarian on Nine Emperor Gods Festival

The Nine Emperor Gods Festival 九皇爷诞 occurs on the first 9 days of the ninth month on each lunar year. This festival is a uber big deal for the Hokkien people (descendants of people from the Fujian 福建 province in China), some say even bigger than Chinese New Year itself.

One of the things people do throughout this festival is going vegetarian for the 9 days. If you come to Penang, you will be able to find many places offering vegetarian meal promotions.

I was dragged to one such place for lunch today.

Vegetarian Buffet
檀香寺 Than Hsiang Temple

I find not many people know where Than Hsiang Temple 檀香寺 is. You might know the Snake Temple 蛇庙 better. Well, they are just next to each other.

Vegetarian Buffet
We came here for this

RM 12 per pax for a vegetarian buffet lunch. Well, I was skeptical at first. I mean, yeah it is a buffet, but then, it is vegetarian, and it is in a temple. How lavish can it be? I guess it is partly because of going in with low hopes, I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

Here’s what they have to offer…

Vegetarian Buffet
Main Course Line – Rice and 8 or 10 dishes
Vegetarian Buffet
Noodles Line – Tiny bowls of Laksa and Hokkien Mee
Vegetarian Buffet
Thong Sui 糖水 (Sweet Dessert Soup) Line – Ginkgo Fuchuk Barley and Bubur Chacha

I did not manage to take photos of the Soup Line (2 types of herbal soup) and Rojak Line. And boy was it crowded. I think the hall could accommodate at least 300 people at any one time, and it was fully packed with hungry diners. We arrived early at 11.30 AM so we managed to get a table. By the time we left at 12.30 PM, there were a few bunch of people carrying plates of food, waiting for vacant tables. And there was a long queue outside the hall waiting to be allowed to enter.

Here’s what I had…

Vegetarian Buffet
First serving – Rice, fried bean curd skin, vegetarian lamb curry, fried lotus root, vegetarian fish, vegetables and herbal soup
Vegetarian Buffet
Second serving – Whole plate of vegetables

I have this strange habit of feeling guilty when I eat deep fried and unhealthy food. To atone for my guilt, I try to eat a bigger quantity of vegetables or fruits, hoping to cover the unhealthy food with healthy food. I guess this overeating is a flawed idea that might have been a reason why I am fat. 🙁

Vegetarian Buffet
Third serving – Hokkien Mee and Ginkgo Barley

Fourth serving… no, there’s no fourth serving. No no no, I swear it! I swear I did not have seconds on the sweet barley soup! I swear I did not have 2 bowls of bubur chacha! I swear I did not have another plate of vegetarian lamb curry!

Anyway, after the meal, I do think RM 12 is a good deal. I might come again.

32 Comments

  1. We have been vegan for the past two years and attending the vegetarian festival in Thailand was amazing.

    I am sure it is very similar to the festival in Malaysia and hopefully we can make it there as well.

    • Yeah, Thailand is celebrating a similar festival, most of the Chinese people in Thailand are of Hokkien roots. It’s THE big day tonight, as it is the 9th day. I’m not sure what happens in Thailand, but there will be lots of fireworks, music and floats parade going on 😀 .

  2. the dishes looks good like those served in any restaurant buffet. Feasting once in a while is OK…I tink I will go too if I m in Penang…but the crowds is scary…

  3. hah..hah…I see you ate your money’s worth 🙂 I love vegetarian food but it does not keep me full for long. I get hungry pretty fast with vegetarian fare. My top favourites would be the vegetarian fried meehoon and curry.

    • I have the same issue as you, vegetarian meal makes me go hungry quickly. Even with the buffet, I became hungry at 4PM 😐

  4. many people are going vegetarian for 9 days during the 九皇爺誕, are you?? or just this veggie buffet only?? I went to the temple yesterday, they were selling vegetarian but I didn’t go for it, instead went to the fishball noodles stall nearby, haha!! 😀

    • Just that buffet only, sorry to disappoint you 😀 ! I don’t really celebrate this festival, not Hokkien and not Taoist. Just watch and join in part of the fun only 😀

  5. We’ve ONE vegetarian restaurant here. Never tried – they say it’s expensive. Then I spotted a vegetarian chap fan stall elsewhere – yet to go and try. Tried a vegetarian burger once – nice, patty made from shitake mushroom stalks…but of course, nothing like the real thing.

    • No to vegetarian burger. That’s the only vegetarian food that I refuse to like! I guess it is partly because people who make it always claim: “taste like the real thing!” … Get lost! If you want the real thing, eat the real thing!

  6. They say last for 9 days.. Today is what day liao? Everyday raining leh, evening time.. Stress dou…. Jam and have to pickup the kids.. Wahh, the food all look good.. I thought all greens.. That vegetarian lamb looks yummy, can eat two plates of rice with just the gravy? I’m salivating on the hokkien mee, slurrrpppp!

    • Today chor 7 looo.. I don’t know the parade will happen tomorrow or Thursday. Here raining on alternate days. Today super hot, tomorrow super heavy rain, and so on.
      If you eat out in Penang, can hardly find greens. Not on the zhap fan stalls, and not on vegetarian meals. Vegetarian cuisine here nowadays are all about deep fried fake meats 😐

  7. Ah, the food looks delicious! I can certainly see why you went back for seconds!

    Never heard of the festival before – can’t believe it’s almost as big as/bigger than the Chinese New Year. What’s the reason for going vegetarian?

    • It’s more of a Taoist festival. With Taoists and Buddhists, we always go vegetarian on certain festivals for religious purposes. Do not eat animals (living beings) to gain better karma, that sort of thing. Although for my case, the reason is more because it is cheap 😀

    • Er, I don’t really notice what’s inside. Got noodles, kangkung, and some crispy things. I guess those are the tepung prawns kot?
      Yeah, that place gets crowded quickly, need to reach there by 11.30AM.

  8. Now you made me miss Penang all the more! Their festive seasons and fire crackers are always loudest in Malaysia with the throngs of Chinese living there. I am glad you are taking vegetarian for this seasons where good merits and health awaits you. Please watch the processions later and share the photos okay? Thanks brother Gunner.

    • LOL! Sorry to disappoint you, I’m not going full blast vegetarian. I was just dragged along there because the colleagues said got CHEAP BUFFET. That 2 are the keywords 😀 .
      I’m not sure if I will be able to make the processions. Working late nights nowadays. I’ll try.

  9. Erh, all those food you swear you did not eat means you did lah, izzit? Hehehehe!

    I do think the RM12 is a good deal but I also think it encourages people to over eat. Vegetarian is supposed to let you be more health conscious but overeating is definitely a no no.

    But good to eat you enjoying your vegetarian lunch!

    I would like to try the vegetarian laksa and hokkien mee. I can imagine it to be delicious!

    • Not really, with this kau wong yeh thing, it is more of religious purpose for people to go vegetarian. Although in my case, it is for cheap food 😀
      Tsk, people already swear, no means no la >.<

  10. Do you still have the photo of your handwritten note in your hard disk somewhere? Upload it again lah! Your handwriting is so nice, it would be a shame not to display it on your blog.

    • You can always make a detour here before heading to India. There’s 3 more days of festivities for this year, and then it is next year 😉

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