Is vegetarian food available all over Tibet? Will it be a problem for a veggie to travel Tibet? What should I do if I am a vegan and want to travel Tibet? These are the questions often asked by vegetarian travellers from around the world planning a tour to Tibet. It is not as difficult as most people assumed to find proper vegetarian food in Tibet. There are plenty of meatless options for vegetarians if you know what to order from local cuisines which are easily found in bars and restaurants in Tibet (but mostly in cities and bigger counties or townships). Vegetarian food in Tibet is more common than people think – so read on!
There are three major cuisines in Tibet: Tibetan Food, Chinese Food, and Muslim Food. All of them have vegetarian dishes available.
Vegetarian Options in Tibetan Food
The basic Tibetan meal is tsampa, a kind of dough made with roasted-barley flour and yak butter mixed with water, tea or beer. Tsampa with milk powder and sugar makes a pretty good porridge.
Momos are commonly seen outside Lhasa, which are Tibetan dumplings with different fillings with meat or vegetables or both. For vegetarians you can ask for su momos, which means vegetable filling momos. They are normally steamed or fried. Another common Tibet food is thugpa, a noodle soup with meat or vegetables or both. For vegetarians, ask for su thugpa.
You can also find fried rice of many different kinds with meat or vegetables or both. One of which particularly suitable for vegetarians is called droma drase, a yummy combination of rice, sweet potato, sugar and butter.
In local markets like Barkhor Plaza, you might see stings of little white lumps like over-the-top necklaces – this is dried yak cheese and it’s eaten like sweets. At first it taste a bit like a small rock in your month, very chewy, but eventually it starts to soften up and taste like cheese. You either love it or hate it.
Vegetarian Options Chinese Vegan Food
Chinese restaurants can be found in almost every settlements in Tibet, and the most commonly seen are Sichuanese cuisine. Sichuanese dishes are usually stir-fried quickly over a high flame with meat or vegetables or both. Tell the Sichuanese restaurant owners – wo chi su! (I am a vegetarian). They will understand easily.
Chinese snakes are excellent and make for a fine light meal. The most common are shuijiao (ravioli-style dumplings) order by the bowl or weight, and baozi (thicker steamed dumplings), which are similar to momos and are normally order by steamer. Both are dipped in soy sauce, vinegar or chilli, or a mix of all.
Shaguo mixian is a particularly tasty form of rice noodles cooked in a clay pot, with meat or vegetables or both.
Chaomian (fried noodles) and dan chao fan (egg fried rice) can be found in almost all Chinese restaurants.
Vegetarian Options in Muslim Food
Muslim restaurants can be found in almost all urban centres in Tibet, easily recognized by a green flag hanging outside or Arabic script on the restaurant sign. Most chefs are from the Linxia area of Gansu. The food is based on noodles, with beef or vegetables or both, and, of course, there’s no pork.
Muslim restaurants also offer good breads and excellent babao cha (eight treasured tea), which is made with dried raisins, plums and rock sugar.
Vegetarian Restaurants in Lhasa
Of course they are restaurants in Tibet dedicated exclusively for vegetarian food, mainly in Lhasa. Below are a few Vegan Restaurants in Lhasa
- Tibet Kun Phan Vegetarian Restaurant at Yuthok Road, Lhasa
It serves excellent, healthy all-veg dishes, including lunch buffet.
- Holy Land Vegetarian Restaurant Address: North Lingkor Road, Lhasa
Nicely decorated with 2 floors of dining areas. English menu with photos showing their dishes. Open hours: 9:30am-9:30pm, Mon-Sun.
- Father Vegetarian Restaurant Address: No. 9, Cemenlin 3rd Alley, Beijing Middle Road, Lhasa
It offers affordable and authentic vegetarian food for Tibetans. The combo dishes with rice are good value and the Tibetan-styled mushrooms are particularly recommended. Their menu is written in Tibetan & Chinese without picture. Bring your Tibetan guide along to help you order.