How the #&$% is Thai food vegetarian?

So I was reading up on my curries when I made a shocking discovery: thai curries use shrimp paste, made from ground up shrimp.

However, I know that vegetarians regularly flock to good thai restaurants for their delicious sans-meat options. Are they just in the dark? Is there some weird shrimp loophole? Is the shrimp paste not used in most restaurants in the US?

How the #&$% is Thai food vegetarian?

I would assume vegetarians order meals that don’t contain shrimp paste.

Evidently, it depends on what one means by vegetarian. I discoverd, to my dismay, on an airline flight from Hong Kong to Korea, that the “Asian Vegetarian” meal is what the rest of the world calls “Fish Stew.”

The Thai places I go to, however, do know the difference between vegetarian and seafood options and don’t put shrimp paste in their vegetarian curries.

Most Asian restaurants change the ingredients of their dishes for the American taste. Even if shrimp paste is traditionally used that doesn’t mean that every American restaurant uses it for every curry in every dish. All a restaurant has to do is flag the dishes on its menu that are vegetarian by American standards.

It’s also true that vegetarians are not the same as vegans. Vegetarians avoid meat, usually defined as red meat and poultry, but consume a variety of meat products, including dairy, eggs, and sometimes fish.

And some people don’t mind fooling themselves if the food tastes good.

Somewhat relevant for vegetarian home cooks: Mae Ploy’s Yellow Curry paste is shrimp-paste free (and the only one in their lineup as such.)

Shrimp paste, fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, barbeque sauce, Caesar dressing, soy cheese, marshmallows, white sugar, breakfast cereals, vanilla flavor…there are a lot of common foods that often contain animal products or use animal products in their manufacture that people either aren’t aware of or willfully ignore.

That’s why there are many more vegetarians than vegans. Vegans have to pay attention; vegetarians can get away with avoiding faces.

Heck, even some beer and wine might not be suitable for strict vegetarians as these beverages are sometime cleared with animal-based finings (like isinglass or gelatin.)

The finings don’t remain in the beer, though. They settle to the bottom and get filtered out.

'Tis true, but I don’t think it matters to strict vegetarians, as an animal product was used in the making of said beer or wine.

Read: Vegetarianism and Beer and Vegetarianism and Wine.

I don’t know what the standards are for “Asian vegetarian,” but Indian vegetarians will not eat any food that has ever come into contact with animal products (meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, everything). (Dairy products and honey are fine though.) So, cheese made with animal rennet or products including animal-based gelatin are out.

“Pure” or “strict” vegetarianism in India also requires avoiding onions and garlic (but again, dairy is okay).

I will never understand that kind of definition of “vegetarian.”

Of course, I’ll also never understand the people that can take in a thousand calories or more in a day and claim they’re fasting.

Is that just for Jainism, or more broadly based?

Fair enough. I don’t understand people who claim to be vegetarian but eat chicken or fish.

Right – veganism is about more than diet. It’s a moral issue, eschewing theoretically any use of an animal or animal product. Part of the point is not to spend money supporting businesses that use or exploit animals, even if one doesn’t ingest the animals in question.

Most vegans do all that they can in practical terms…for example, apparently automobile tires are not entirely vegan, yet most vegans still drive or take buses. If a hypothetical vegan tire became available, however, dedicated vegans would buy it – when their current tires needed replacement.

It’s not limited to Jainism; among Hindus, some strict Brahmin diets avoid onions and garlic as well.

Strict Jains avoid all root vegetables. I don’t know any “pure vegetarian” Hindus who avoid potatoes and carrots, for example, just onions and garlic.

I understand that, but we were talking about vegetarians, not vegans.

I dated a vegetarian who was not vegan who would not eat cheese made with animal-based rennet. I do not know her feelings about finings in beer or wine, though. Most vegetarians I’ve met are vegetarian for moral reasons.

Well, they keep moving the goalposts. Really once upon a time as recently as the 1950’s many “vegetarians” ate fish. That was what was meant by “vegetarianism”. Then around the 60’s or so, they excluded fish, but dairy and eggs were fine, and they ate scads of honey. Now we often call this “Ovo-lacto vegetarianism” instead of just “vegetarianism”. And starting in the 1950’s or so there were a darn few ate no animal products, who were called “Vegans”.

Now read this thread. Some here have used the term “vegetarian” or “strict vegetarian” when they seemed to mean “vegan”.

Yes, I know that according to the Linnaeen system, “fish” are animals. (Actually, there aren’t any “fish” per se anymore, but that’s a side issue). But for centuries before Linnaeus “animal” often meant what we’d call “mammal” today and “fish” was anything that swam in the sea- such as starfish, blackfish, etc.

So, some of those who abstained from eating meat did not exclude fish. Even today when we know that fungi are not plants (nor are they animals) vegans consume them with no problems. However, under some systems, the fungi are now lumped with the animals (under Opisthokonta), not with the plants. Does that mean no ‘shrooms for vegans?