Tashi Dema

When Tshering Yangzom, 45, decided to stop eating meat 16 years ago, it was a difficult journey.

The resident of Jagathang in Paro said most Bhutanese dishes had meat and the meat served to the guests rated the success of any event.

“I became a vegetarian because of my love for animals,” the mother of two said. “My husband brought home some cassettes of people slaughtering animals then and it really pained me.”

A member of a civil society organisation called Duedro Rangwang Zhidhey Tshogchung (DRZT), Tshering Yangzom said everyone in her house chose to be vegetarian.

In the last two weeks, she learnt to prepare vegetarian dishes with 29 other people in Paro.

“I learnt to make different varieties of vegetable items,” she said. “I can now treat my family members, friends and community members with vegetarian dishes and encourage them to become vegetarian too.”

Inside the small kitchen, participants of the training organised by DRZT are seen cutting vegetables, frying or cooking it.

Wearing white aprons and light blue caps, the trainees look like professional chefs.

Passang Gyelmo, 34, said she wants to become a professional vegetarian chef.

The mother of one, who worked in a hotel for the past eight years lost her job because of the pandemic.

Trainees intend to promote vegetarianism in the community

She has been a vegetarian for more than a decade and a member of DRZT. “I learnt about the training from a Wechat group and grabbed the opportunity,” she said.

Passang worked in farms as a day labourer to support her family while her husband, who worked in tourism and lost his job, worked in construction sites.

She said the two weeks training helped her learn a lot. “Besides the vegetable curries, I also learnt to make pizza, spring rolls and other fast food.”

The mother of one said she wanted to open a vegetarian hotel in Paro, but without any stable income, she is scared it will remain a dream. She doesn’t know about any financial support rendered to those impacted by the pandemic.

DRZT’s coordinator in Paro, Sonam Zangmo, said trainees decided that they would form groups and volunteer to cook during moenlam chenmo and other religious events to promote vegetarianism.

She said that the objective of the training is to encourage people to become vegetarians and show that there are varieties of vegetarian dishes.

Meanwhile, there are also non-vegetarians like Thinley Jamtsho attending the training.

He is the cook of Rinpung dratshang and he has been asked to attend the training. “I eat meat, but prepare only vegetarian dishes in the dzong,” he said.

According to the 27-year-old man, such programmes are necessary as cooks like him could prepare delicious vegetarian dishes for monks.

DZRT started in 2015 through Wechat and has about 10,000 members in the country.