Monday October 15, 2012
Devotees go on strict diet to celebrate Nine Emperor Gods fest
By KOW KWAN YEE
GEORGE TOWN: When celebrating the Nine Emperor Gods (Kew Ong Yeah) Festival in Penang, food is a must but it has to be vegetarian.
The annual festival, where devotees mostly Taoists observe a strict vegetarian diet for the first nine days of the ninth lunar month, begins tomorrow.
Numerous makeshift vegetarian stalls bedecked in yellow cloth have been set up on the streets here, and some hawkers have been busy preparing ingredients for vegetarian dishes.
Besides rice and fried noodles, many of these stalls also sell dishes like vegetarian meat rolls, bak kut teh and curry mee. They also have Western dishes like vegetarian burgers and pizza.
Some stalls have snacks such as cakes, biscuits, dumplings, crackers, tau sar pneah, doughnuts and ham chim peng.
Stall operator Lee Eng Kok, 51, had be- gun selling vegetarian meals on Saturday as some devotees observed the diet a few days earlier.
Lee prepares bak kut teh and mixed rice dishes.
His is the only 24-hour vegetarian stall in Madras Lane.
“I hire about 40 part-timers who work in shifts,” he said, adding that the prices had gone up by between 5% and 10% due to the increase in costs of some ingredients.
A biscuit seller, who only wanted to be known as Yew, expects brisk business over the next few days.
“I sell more than 30 different biscuits,” he said. “Devotees would buy these and cakes as offerings when they pray.”
During the nine days, devotees also gather at the Kew Ong Yeah temples to burn joss sticks and offer prayers for health and prosperity.
The festival is dedicated to the nine sons of Tou Mu, Goddess of the North Star, who is said to control the books of life and death.
Her sons, deified as jen huang (human sovereigns), are said to have the ability to cure sickness and bestow luck, wealth and longevity.
The festival ends on Oct 23 with an au revoir procession to several beachfronts on the island. There, the deities will be ceremoniously sent out to sea in a mini boat laden with joss papers and offerings.