With a large population that prefers vegetarian food, it’s no surprise one gets to see a lot of “pure vegetarian” restaurants in India.
Some restaurants even advertise in big, bold letters at the entrance that they serve only vegetarian food, leaving no doubt in the minds of vegetarians, some of whom wouldn’t even step into a non-vegetarian restaurant.
As a vegetarian, life hasn’t been easy in Beijing. There have been times when I have walked out of restaurants because I was unable to get vegetarian food. Not even in fast-food joints.
I’ve been trying out Indian, Middle Eastern (I never tried it during my long stint in the Gulf) and even Italian cuisine. I have been preferring lasagna and pasta, falafel (Middle Eastern fritter made from ground chickpeas) or the much familiar chole bhature (deep-fried Indian bread served with chole, which are chickpeas cooked in a spicy masala).
It’s wishful thinking to expect a pure vegetarian restaurant in China. Or so I had thought.
When a Chinese friend told me about such a restaurant, it was like music to the ears. When she suggested that we have lunch at the restaurant in a hutong close to the Yonghegong Lama Temple, I couldn’t resist.
As agreed, I set out on a “great vegetarian adventure” on a Friday.
After she shared the name of the restaurant, typed in Chinese, on WeChat, I copied the same onto the Didi app, booked a cab and reached the place (not the restaurant) 20 minutes earlier than the scheduled time of 11.30 am.
The restaurant, however, was not traceable. I asked some passersby for directions, but in the absence of a name board, it was hard to locate.
While I kept walking in search of it, I made another discovery: two more pure vegetarian restaurants. That’s for another day.
I still kept walking. I realized I had walked away from the restaurant I was looking for when an elderly man I enquired with for directions said I had to walk back to where I started.
I retraced my steps. On enquiring further, I found the entrance to the restaurant remained “hidden” since it was through a hair salon.
I was there finally. It was a simple restaurant with modest furniture. It wasn’t crowded, and it wasn’t noisy. I loved it.
No sooner did I occupy the seat by a table than I received a message from my friend, who announced her arrival. She said she would wait for me outside so I won’t have difficulty in locating the place.
But then, I was already inside, and she was surprised to find I had arrived before her.
We both were famished. I, after the long walk, and she, after a strenuous yoga session.
We immediately asked for the menu. I was impressed. There was not one non-vegetarian dish on it. I had a hard time deciding what to eat. We zeroed in on mushroom risotto with bechamel sauce, fried potato wedges in truffle soy milk cream sauce, along with a tremella cheesecake and a passion fruit mousse for desserts.
I need to specially mention the assorted seasonal vegetarian sushi. I always thought sushi was a nonvegetarian dish consisting of cold cooked rice garnished with raw or cooked fish. I tried the vegetarian alternative, and loved it. So did my friend, who has turned vegetarian now.
I did feel like trying out some more dishes, but then I had exceeded my limit.
Well, the gastronomic adventure was worth all the effort.