October 2, 2012
By Trista Cornelius, Contributing Writer
If you have friends who marvel at your plant-based diet and croon, “I could never give up meat,” Loving Hut International Vegan Restaurant & Café is the restaurant to take them to. In downtown Portland on Jefferson and 13th, Loving Hut offers a calm, welcoming space to try any of the 100% vegan dishes which showcase the restaurant’s faux meat specialties. For example, when the Spicy Cha Cha dish arrived at our table, it looked so much like shrimp I had to ask twice what it was made of before I could eat it. “Yams, sweet yams,” I was told. This and the “beef” in another dish could easily fool, or at least completely satisfy, most meat eaters.
Loving Hut is not afraid to use the v-words: vegetarian and vegan. In fact, posters detailing plant-based nutrition and how much water is saved by eating grains not animals hang in the front window. A poster of celebrity vegetarian/vegans hangs inside. A simple, colorful mural declares, “honoring all life maintains nature’s balance.” This expresses part of the philosophy behind the Loving Hut franchise, which is affiliated with Ching Hai, referred to as “Supreme Master” by her followers, a revered spiritual leader who expects her followers to adhere to a strict vegan diet.
Ping Nieh, owner of the only Portland-area Loving Hut, knows people are intimidated by the word “vegan,” so when he sees someone looking interested but afraid to come inside, he meets them at the door and offers them a bowl of free soup. The soup is delicious and wins over new customers, but Ping also hopes it fills their stomachs and takes the place of an animal-based meal. The less killing of animals, the closer the world moves to harmony and balance according to Ping. The more people who come in, the less animals killed is Ping’s philosophy: "This is a guilt-free diet,” he says.