Tibetans develop a taste for the West

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Publish Time: 2019-05-20 Author: From: China Daily

The Summit Cafe, a Western style eatery, attracts both locals and tourists. [Photo/China Daily]

Dorje didn't even pause to lick his greasy fingers after finishing off a piece of fried chicken.

Instead, he started to run around the KFC restaurant in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet autonomous region, just like any typical 5-year-old.

Dorje's father, Sodar Kunsang, said that since 2016, when the first KFC restaurant opened in Tibet, visiting it had become a "must" during the family's annual trip to the city.

He spoke while trying to lure his son back to the table with a spicy chicken wing, a temptation the young boy could not resist.

Sitting by a window in the eatery with his wife and Dorje's 7-year-old sister, the father said: "These chicken wings taste really good and different. Both the kids and my elderly mother love them.

"As followers of Tibetan Buddhism, we come to Lhasa every year to pray at the Jokhang Temple, which is close by. Coming to KFC has become part of our new routine. I can still remember seeing people lining up in front of the restaurant when it opened three years ago. It was a significant event back then," said Sodar Kunsang, who hails from the city of Shigatse.

Liang Juan, head of the Tibet branch of food delivery service Meituan, said it is a misconception that the only food on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau is yak meat and highland barley, as there is a variety of cuisines to choose from. The region is a top international tourist destination, which has helped to create diversity in its food markets, especially in recent years.

"Living in Tibet can be just as convenient and modern as other areas of China, especially after great improvements to the transportation infrastructure and communication networks," she said.

"People can order food on their phones and go to quality restaurants that use fresh ingredients sourced from throughout China and the world."

In a region with an altitude of 4,000 meters on average, diners can enjoy Nepalese beef masala, hamburgers, Japanese beef, quality coffee as well as authentic Tibetan and Sichuan cuisine.

KFC now has more than 5,000 branches on the Chinese mainland since entering it in 1987. Before opening its restaurant in Lhasa city center on March 8, 2016, it was operating in every Chinese province and region, except Tibet.

The fast-food giant considered expanding into Tibet in 2004, but Yum! Brands - KFC's parent company - called off the plan, saying it did not think it would be profitable to operate in the region.

Although high logistics costs have made food at KFC in Tibet more expensive than in other parts of China, its branch in Lhasa, the regional capital, is always packed during the lunch and dinner hours.

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