Changing of the gourd

Mandarin Oriental joins Vegetarian Festival for first time in 144 years

Right  Grilled baby corn with corn dip, shiso celery and passion fruit cream.

For the first time in its 144-year history, the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok will be taking part in the annual Vegetarian Festival, known in Thai as thedsakan kin jae, which will start off tomorrow.

Kin jae is a common religious dietary practice among many locals as a part of the purification process to welcome the arrival of Chinese gods and saints in the ninth month of the lunar calendar.

It involves a restraint of consuming animal meat and certain varieties of strong-odoured vegetables, namely garlic, leeks, onions, shallots and tobacco. It is also a time for diners to be more compassionate and save lives through partaking in a meat-free diet.

This year the festival falls on Oct 17-25. Throughout the nine-day period, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok will feature a special series of world-class plant-based menus at three dining outlets: Lord Jim's, The Verandah and Riverside Terrace restaurants.

The showcased cuisine, a warmhearted initiation by the hotel's French executive chef Dominique Bugnand, isn't just jae but also vegan. Carefully crafted to meet both standards, the meal will also be dairy-free and strictly without any animal by-product.

Coconut cream, corn milk, soy milk and cocoa butter are used as substitutes for dairy products, while various kinds of cereals, grains, nuts and mushrooms lend a tasty protein crunch to the menu.

Joining the five-star, tree-hugging squad are The Verandah's British chef de cuisine Martin Benton and Lord Jim's Singaporean-Australian chef de cuisine Nick Gannaway.

The Riverside Terrace where a gourmet plant-based dinner will be served tomorrow.

The extraordinary promotion commences with a seven-course kombucha-pairing dinner, priced 1,800 baht per person, on Saturday.

Hosted by executive chef Bugnand, the fine-dining meal redefines traditional jae cuisine through East-meets-West cooking techniques, Westernised flavours and sophisticated presentations.

Highlights of the dinner include a starting platter of grilled baby corn with corn dip, shiso celery and dairy-free passion fruit cream, presented in the form of gourmet tamale with house-made corn crisps.

There's also a beautiful dish of heirloom carrot, tofu and persimmon in a one-of-a-kind savoury gingerbread broth.

For the main course, a plant-based meat made from pea and mung bean protein is slowly-braised in a cabbage blanket and glazed with smoked vegetable reduction. Unless you had known that the dish is vegan, you would think the super scrumptious warm sauce is a reduction of beef jus and red wine.

Promising a heavenly wrap up to the evening is a light and lovely offering of bitter chocolate dessert, proof that Bugnand is also a wizard of sweets. The chocolate, in a form of crusty fine bark, comes with organic tofu custard and home-made coffee kombucha.

Vegan dinner menu is also available at Lord Jim's.

In addition, special selections of a la carte plant-based dishes are offered by Benton and Gannaway.

At The Verandah, highly recommended is a crunchy, flavourful and wholesome medley of marinated tender organic tofu, mixed puffed grains, organic beetroot, cucumber and carrot with a delicious spiced dressing.

While at Lord Jim's, there's a collection of vegan pasta dishes guaranteed to please your taste buds.

The cappellini pasta with savoury sweet ragout of forgotten root vegetable and Japanese kombu gravy; and the creamy risotto with chestnut mushroom, pine nut butter, green beans and wood sorrel are not to be missed.

To add a charming local touch to the culinary promotion, the hotel offers diners a complimentary tour of the nearby Chinese-influenced community where the Vegetarian Festival's rituals have long been established and treasured -- both religiously and gastronomically -- for centuries.

For more information and reservations, call Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok on 02-659-9000 or email

Risotto with chestnut mushroom, pine nut butter and wood sorrel.

Marinated tender organic tofu with mixed grains, organic beetroot, cucumber and carrot.

Cappellini with ragout of forgotten root vegetables and Japanese kombu.

Heirloom carrot, tofu and persimmon in gingerbread broth.

The hotel's French executive chef Dominique Bugnand.

Lord Jim's chef de cuisine Nick Gannaway.

The Verandah restaurant offers a la carte vegan dishes all day.

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