KATHMANDU, Dec 27: With increasing awareness about the environment and the unethical production processes behind most durable and nondurable goods, people have become more conscious about their life choices. That has brought about a wave of people opting to be vegetarians or even going vegan. And that’s a really good thing, states Jenima Sapkota or Jenny as she prefers to be called.
Jenny is a student of BAMS (Bachelors in Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery) and runs a food page on Instagram. With nearly 14000 followers, Jenny is one of the few vegetarian/vegan food bloggers in Nepal. Jenny initially started off because of a notable lack of choices for vegetarians like her. When meeting up with friends and family she always had a hard time at restaurants as the menu for vegetarians was very limited.
“I wanted to avoid gatherings altogether because there were very few things I could eat and also people would comment on my ‘picky’ behavior,” she recalls. Having an eating disorder made it harder too. She soon realized that this predicament is one faced by many people and not just her.
It’s this realization with which she set out to discover restaurants that catered specifically to vegetarians. Initially, she limited her account to her friends only but later made it public after her friends kept praising her work. She’s done this for some two years now and has dined at numerous restaurants. She randomly selects an area (giving preference to those that are known to have some great restaurants) and visits it with a friend and goes about finding a vegetarian restaurant.
From an early age eating meat never really settled well with Jenny. Her parents were non-vegetarians but she would get violently sick when eating meat so her grandparents (devout vegetarians) instructed her parents to not give her meat. And so Jenny grew up a vegetarian and remains so even today. The idea of eating meat has never appealed to her and she doesn’t think it ever will. “The single greatest thing about being a vegetarian is that you know nobody had to die in order to give you the food you are eating. This way you feel like a lesser burden on nature and that’s a great feeling,” she says.
Jenny is a behavioral environmentalist. She supports recycling, endorses zero-waste concept, and anything that concerns minimizing one’s carbon footprint. Taking this a step further, she has mulled over becoming a vegan for some time now. But the transition isn’t immediate and definitely not simple. “Being a vegan in Nepal is difficult. Finding soy milk to substitute cow/buffalo milk is very difficult. There are some vegan restaurants but going vegan is a lifestyle change and not a random routine you pick up for a day,” she explains. She also mentions being surprised at the sudden surge in the number of vegans in Nepal. “I have tens of people writing to me everyday for recommendations of vegan restaurants. Initially those who wrote to me were foreign tourists but there are more Nepalis today,” she says.
For now, Jenny is alternating between being a vegetarian and a vegan. She’s researching on vegan clothing brands, vegan foodstuffs in Nepal and plans on discovering more vegan restaurants through her blogs.
Her say as an Ayurvedic student
We study eating patterns. Eating at certain hours is good and refraining from eating at other hours is beneficial. It’s better if we are done with dinner before the sun sets. That is really how our biological clock should work. Also us Nepalis ought to bring changes in the way we cook. Spicing up vegetables or cooking them for a long time takes away their nutritional value. Pairing up this vegetable with that is what we call “biruddha ahar” meaning they shouldn’t be consumed in that combination. Else all you are eating is carbohydrates and fats. If you are feeling restless and agitated, avoid garlic and ginger.
Switch between iodized salt and plain salt every other week. Go with the dahi-moi-dudh formula. Consume curd (dahi) in the mornings, moi (mattha) in the daytime and dudh (milk) before dinner. It might seem a little difficult but you will eventually get the hang of it. It’s only about small, slight changes.
The perks of being a vegetarian
The first really is knowing that you aren’t causing any harm to other animals. Becoming a vegetarian is going forward one step to being compassionate towards other creatures.
I’ve also always loved the organic life. My grandfather was a Sanskrit scholar so learning about yoga, natural energies, and organic eating was how I grew up. This is also the reason why I took up Ayurvedic medicine as my subject. Growing up, we drank ginger water or tulsi water for colds. We refrained from taking any sort of medications. This is what living organically means. An organic life is natural, unfiltered, and untainted. And being a vegetarian is a part of it. You save yourself from certain infections that are meat specific. Also a vegetarian diet is proven to reduce the probability of high cholesterol, diabetes, as well as lower chances of obesity and strokes. A vegetarian diet also gives you a higher urine pH which means that you are less likely to suffer from kidney stones.
To these health benefits, you add the fact that you feel lighter and you will notice an improvement in your moods as well.
Jenny’s restaurant recommendations
Loving Heart Vegan Restaurant, Thamel
This restaurant is strictly for vegans. Often vegetarians hesitate when eating out because we don’t know what’s happening in the kitchen. We don’t know if they are using the same utensils and the same oil. And because this restaurant is strictly for vegans we needn’t worry about that. They also have a close-knit vegan community who are very welcoming and inviting.
Bliss Pure Foods, Boudha
Because I believe in the zero waste concept, I particularly cherish this restaurant. They substitute plastic straws with bamboo straws and sell vegan kohl, lipsticks, and more. All the ingredients used here are completely natural. The staff is friendly and they have a full raw option too. Admittedly, the option for food is very limited but the quality more than makes up for that.
Aniyor Veg and Vegan Restaurant, Thamel
This restaurant has an excellent Indian menu. The flavors too are very agreeable with the Nepali palate. They aren’t vegan exactly but they have good vegetarian food. Also, your non-vegetarian friends won’t mind being dragged into this restaurant because the food is delicious and the ambience is also really good.
Sarangi Vegetarian Restaurant, Shiva Complex
Firstly, they have a good layout. Sitting upstairs especially feels peaceful. They aren’t strictly vegan but do have a vegan and gluten free menu. I especially like their soy chunks. The chunks are cooked to resemble a fish dish and unlike most restaurants that are trying to bring out meat flavors into vegetarian dishes and failing to do so, Sarangi passes with flying colors. I also like how they are creative with their food.