Dorje Dongdong's zen-style restaurant in downtown Xining, the plateau capital of Northwest China's Qinghai province, offers vegetarian hotpot, which has been raved about by food lovers one year after its opening.
Born in a Tibetan Buddhist family, Dorje, 34, only became a vegetarian three years ago, when his first daughter was born.
"Tibetan people living on highlands need energy from yak meat, although we believe in Buddhism. But as the Tibetan nomad life has changed, it has been a long-time struggle for me to quit eating meat," said Dorje.
Growing up on the highland pasture 3,500 meters above the sea level in the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Yushu in Qinghai province, Dorje's family used to keep 100 yaks. Yak meat and zanba, a staple food made of highland barley flour roasted with butter, are the family's daily diet.
On the restaurant menu, the main dish is a mix of vegetables for a hotpot made with Tibetan tea.
Dorje said nowadays, the vegetable supply from Xining and the city of Chengdu in neighboring Sichuan province is stable.
He said the dishes in his restaurant, based on traditional Tibetan food, are trendy and delicious. One popular item is a hamburger-like bun, with the bread made of highland barley filled with mixed vegetables.
Dorje said the trend of a vegetarian diet is not just about religious beliefs, but about the rising awareness of a healthy diet as well.
He said although his parents still eat meat for dinner, they also eat vegetables and fruits. His two sisters are now vegetarians.
The growing consumption of these health foods praised by foodies, vegetarians, and dietitians has led producers to try to align their annual yields with demand.[Photo by Yong Kai/Asianewsphoto]